Field Trip Information for the Substitute Teacher (page 2)
A good sub must be ready for anything. Whether you’re off to the zoo, the local science museum, or a play at the local university, a class trip makes significant demands on every teacher who participates. The safety of the children is your responsibility. Their good (or bad) behavior in public reflects on both you and the school. The parents who attend as chaperones can be a great help, but in their own way, they need to be managed in much the same way as the children do.
A day outside the confines of the school building can be fun, but only if you know what to do, how to handle the responsibility, and how you’ll need to prepare. In this chapter I’ll try to provide you with some guidance in each of these areas.
What Type of Trip Should I Expect?
The easiest field trips to manage are those that go to an entertainment or cultural venue such as a theater, ballet, concert, or opera. The students are seated in an auditorium, monitoring is relatively easy, and their movement is constrained. Trips that take the children to an outdoor venue—zoos, theme parks, and beaches, to name just a few—with many potential attractions are probably more fun for the children, but they can pose significant challenges for the teacher and the parent chaperones.
If your class is going to an entertainment or cultural venue, it’s a good idea to provide some background or context before the trip, so that the students understand the things they will see and hear. It’s also very important to have the students recognize that their behavior will be very important and will be monitored carefully.
If the class is going to an outdoor venue, it is critical to establish tracking techniques, assign a buddy system, define meeting times, establish groups with assigned chaperones, and specify other safety procedures. It’s also very important to provide name tags identifying the child, the school, and the location of the transportation.
What do I Need to Know about Permission Slips?
Virtually every school system demands formal parental permission for all out-of-school activities (and some that occur in school). Therefore, every child who will be going on the field trip must have a signed permission slip. No slip, no trip!
In most cases, slips are sent home a few weeks before the trip and are collected in the days immediately preceding the trip. If the slips are not in the classroom (check the teacher’s desk), be certain to check in the school office. Compare the list of students against signed slips. If a child does not have the permission slip, the office staff will try to contact the parent. If this is not possible, they will arrange to have the student sit in another classroom for the day.
Should I Divide the Children into Groups?
If you’re going on an outdoor field trip, it is critically important to divide the children into small groups and assign one or more parent chaperones and/or teachers to each group. Although there is no ideal group size, I have found that groups of four or five children are manageable and safe.
Children like to be with their friends, so try to keep friends together when defining groups. If you don’t know what friendships exist, I’ve found that it’s a good idea to work with a trusted student when dividing into groups. Assign groups in private. Do not allow too much class input. (Begging may occur!) If a parent chaperone has a child in the class, be sure to assign that child to the parent’s group.
Sadly, one or two children may not be wanted in anyone’s group. Be sensitive to this. Although you could force the issue, it’s probably better (for the child) not to insist that he or she be included with other children who might torment or be mean to that student. I always kept the “unwanted” child with me, along with a “popular” child. This gives the “unwanted” child some status. In addition, if there is a particularly difficult child, be certain that student stays with you.
How Can I Get the Most Help from Parent Chaperones?
Usually the parents who go on the trips are the room mothers or fathers and are active PTA members. They will be extremely helpful and will probably know the children better than you do. In order to get the most from your chaperones, I would suggest the following guidelines:
- Share cell phone numbers so that you can stay in touch throughout the day.
- Go over safety rules.
- Review special health precautions for individual students.
- Have parents help you keep track of students by “counting heads” often.
What Should I be Certain to Bring?
Many classroom teachers put all necessary field trip information and materials (such as tickets or vouchers) into a large envelope or folder. If you don’t find one, ask. But even if an envelope or folder does exist, be sure to go through the following checklist before you depart.
- If the venue requires tickets or some other proof of advance payment, be certain to bring whatever is needed.
- If any children have special allergies, bring appropriate medications and be sure you understand what precautions you need to take. Consult with the nurse.
- Bring an emergency medical kit for cuts and scrapes.
- Bring a class roster and the name and telephone number of any contact person at the field trip venue.
- Be certain you have a name and contact number for the bus company. Ask if the driver has a cell phone number for you to call in case of emergency.
If you take the time to prepare, you’ll be better able to handle any situation that might arise during the day.
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