Well, friends, I lived.
It wasn’t my finest hour(s), but we all survived.
I can officially say I’ve chaperoned an elementary school field trip.
And now? Now I’m sitting here with my three o’clock coffee in hand, taking just a few moments to breathe while iPads temporarily babysit my children. They keep looking over at me to be sure I haven’t lost my mind. After-school iPads are NOT commonplace around here. Today, though, it was a necessity. Because today is the day I chaperoned my first field trip. And although nobody died, mama needed a moment to recover.
Full disclosure: Eight years ago, I was the twenty-something with all the energy planning and coordinating volunteers and essentially running the field trip. For 150 eighth graders, no less. Today, I got to experience the other side of the field trip coin. In the process, I learned a few things that I thought might be useful to know for anyone who is about to experience the world of field trips as a chaperone.
Do NOT Share Your Teaching Experience
First off, I made a major rookie mistake. I let his teacher, at some point I cannot recall, know that I had teaching experience. I feel quite certain that it was no coincidence that “the runner,” as my first grader called him, was placed in my group. Let’s just say I got my steps in that day. For those of you with teaching experience, go ahead and tuck that little nugget in your back pocket and keep it there…unless runners are your jam, of course. (But really, are they anyone’s jam? Especially when the child you’re frantically chasing across the museum isn’t even yours?)
Second, find a buddy. And I don’t mean pair your kids with buddies, although that’s useful for managing them. I mean make friends ahead of time with at least one other mom or dad in your child’s class so you have someone to chat up and exchange eye rolls with between exhibits. The day will go by much faster if you have someone to laugh with about all the chaos and excessive consumption of Lunchables by the next generation.
Also, take the opportunity to get to know new parents. On this day, I heard from another mom how her son has been asking her to invite us over for a play date ever since Spring break. And a dad shared with me how his daughter was so sad to be moving to a new school next year because she couldn’t sit with my son at lunch anymore. I never would’ve been privy to any of this had I not shown up that day!
It’s Not About You
Third, check your mindset. I’ll admit, I went into this day with a little bit of dread. I guess those 150 eighth graders scarred me way back when. But as the day got going, I really made the shift and chose to use this as an opportunity to see my son in his element. He was surrounded by the friends he spends the majority of his day with, and I got the rare opportunity to peek into his world. He doesn’t share much about school at home, but he loved helping me put faces to names on this trip.
Overall, I came home sweaty, exhausted, and swore I would never go back to education. (True story.) But would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I’d change my mindset about it, and maybe grab an extra cup of coffee on the way, but I’d chase the runner all over again just to see the smile my first grader gave me when he stepped off the bus and saw me waiting for him.
For that alone, it was absolutely worth it.