6 Lessons from Being a Field Trip Chaperone

chaperoneI joined an exclusive club this week. A very special club.

The “I-am-a-Field-Trip-Chaperone” club!

Jealous? Maybe a little bit jealous?

The story is this: last year, my then-kindergarten son had a Field Trip to a local children’s science museum. His teacher asked for parent chaperones, and by the time I volunteered, all of the spots were taken. I was disappointed. My son, however, who didn’t even know it would have been an option for me to join his class, never mentioned missing me.

Jump ahead to this year. My daughter is now a kindergartener, and when her teacher (the same one my son had last year) asked for volunteers to accompany the class to the museum, I emailed back my “me, me, me!” response immediately. And, I was in.

This week, the Field Trip arrived. It turned out to be a rough workweek to be out for a Field Trip. I felt torn about not being in the office, worrying I was dropping the ball on work commitments—the quintessential working parent guilt setting in. Additionally, my daughter didn’t even seem excited about the Field Trip; why was I going? I wasn’t so sure, and approached the trip with a bit of why-am-I-doing-this? My husband, ensconced at his office, reminded me that actions like this—the being present in different aspects of our kids’ lives—make a difference. Our daughter would remember it, he said, even if only subconsciously. Buoyed by his pep talk, I smiled widely and embraced my role.

My daughter’s class was split into small groups, with children assigned to a parent chaperone, teacher, or aide. I had three girls to look after during the trip: my daughter and two of her classmates. They behaved beautifully; I was impressed, in fact, by how well all of the kids behaved. They followed directions, sticking together in the museum. My girls explored the space with great energy, looking out for one another, always conscious of where I was.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t just the kids who did some learning on the trip. I gathered a few lessons along the way, including:

  1. If you chaperone, bring Advil. OK, this is a little bit of a joke. (Well, actually, not really.) Kids are loud. Many kids together in one place are really loud, so bring something to address the headache you’re bound to get.
  1. Be ready for anything. Those kids are fast, jumping around from exhibit to exhibit, from one spot to another. They run and they dash about. So, wear comfy shoes and bring a water bottle. You need to keep up with your group! Make sure you have a fully charged phone, too. After all, you never know when you’ll need to call for back-up or make a break for it.
  1. Little kids can get nervous in new places, so they may want to hold your hand. A lot. They need the reassurance that someone is looking out for them and that they are safe. Bring hand sanitizer. And throw some tissues or wet wipes in your purse; kids are sticky.
  1. Remember the parents who can’t be there. While chaperoning isn’t for everyone, it is an activity many parents would like to do but work or other commitments prevent them from doing so. I sent photos of my daughter’s friends to their parents who would have wanted to participate; they appreciated seeing the good times their kids were having. (Note: This might not be kosher with every school or teacher, so check first for permission.)
  1. Don’t sit backwards on the school bus. (Just don’t. Trust me on this.)
  1. Have fun. My kids aren’t big on sharing their days (“How was school?” I ask every day. “Good,” they answer, adding, “What’s for dinner?”), so the perk of being on the Field Trip was the chance to see my daughter interact with her friends and witness her enthusiasm for new adventures and learning.

Despite my uncertainty that my presence made an impact, my daughter was happy I came along on the Field Trip. The day after, as we walked to school, she slipped her rainbow-stripped mitten into my hand, saying, “Mama, I’m so glad you came on my trip.” She looked up at me, smiling, with her face lit up. I smiled back, pleased with my decision to be there. And, it got me thinking that perhaps I should volunteer for the next Field Trip… maybe…

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