Well, I am pretty sure I just rode along on my last high school field trip. I am a year away from my 16th, and final, consecutive year of high school. I know, I know, don’t think about that statement for too long. Anyway, I recently was invited (along with other parents) to tag along on a field trip with my son’s Teen Leadership Class to the District Courthouse here in Houston. I had made the same trip with my older son last year and found it very interesting. I wondered if I would even get a chance this year. Knowing my younger son, I thought maybe he would try and let the date sneak by so his mother couldn’t go, but alas, I outsmarted him and warned him early that I really wanted to go and not to let me miss the sign up.
This Teen Leadership class is a wonderful opportunity for the students at our school. It is the brainchild of Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Entrepreneur Flip Flippen. The class focuses on developing future leaders through speech, peer reviews, interviews, and case studies. Formerly it was an elective, but now it can also be used for a speech credit. Our teacher, a former corporate accountant, is interesting, engaging and strict with deadlines. The students quickly learn that she means business and most rise to the standards she sets for them.
While at the District courthouse the students learn about a variety of careers while also getting a quick tutorial in our judicial system. They are required to wear business dress, act like young adults, be inquisitive and good listeners. I think most students also leave realizing they do not want to be in the courthouse as a defendant.
In the back of my mind, I was running through my field trip memories. I counted up and I believe my first field trip was probably in my oldest daughter’s kindergarten class. If this is correct, my field trip sponsor tenure has lasted 24 years. While I certainly didn’t get to go on every trip, (nor would I have done this to my children), with four kids I have racked up a whole list of trips. I got to thinking about what I have learned from all these trips and I tried to compress them into a short list which I hope gives you five reasons why you should be taking a few field trips when you get the chance.
1.Your child’s friends and classmates will forever remember you. They will call out your name the next time they see you. They will wave at you in the school. They will speak to you when you least expect it. Why? Because despite popular beliefs, kids really want relationships with adults. In fact, most children are craving adult interaction.
Research has shown that the number one thing teens want is positive interaction with their parents. Sadly, many check out during their child’s teen years. They think since their children have become more self sufficient, it is a time for renewed career involvement while many just struggle to know how to engage their child during these years. Try going on a field trip with them! Warning here though, mom and dad…take their advice on what to wear, and just try to be seen but not heard much. I cherish the relationships I have forged with children over the years through these trips and I am thankful I could be with my own children on these trips, even if it meant I was in more of an observer role.
2. You will learn about the dynamics of your child’s class. This can be really helpful in understanding your own child better and what his day looks like. I recall a year where one of our children was really struggling. There were several potential causes for this and we were trying to figure out which one was the culprit and eliminate it. Then we offered to be sponsors on a museum field trip. It was a light bulb moment! Our suspicions were confirmed that the teacher did not have control of the class. She offered to take over “watching” two of the four children assigned to us, and then left them in the gift shop! I had to use the loud voice I was blessed with to round up these third graders in the museum because apparently she lost her “teacher voice” years before, or at least, her authority. We also have had the opposite experiences, where our respect for the teachers and their classmates grew. If you try and be a helpful, unobtrusive sponsor, it can really strengthen your relationship with the teachers, which brings me to my next point…
3. You will have a new appreciation for junior high teachers. I remember riding fairly far back in the bus on a junior high band field trip. Wow! After an hour on the bus with these pre-pubescent and pubescent children I was so grateful for the educators who spend day after day with these lovely, precious, difficult children. Just go home, pay your taxes or school tuition and be thankful it is not you, unless it is you, then we fall down and thank you deeply for helping us all through this stage of life.
4. You may find out you are in better shape than you thought. I know, this is a weird one. In first grade both of my sons went on this amazing trip to a state park where the Native Americans had lived and camped. It did require some hiking up some fairly tall hills on semi-rocky soil. I remember the teachers preparing us for this so we were physically ready and dressed appropriately. The way one of them elaborated…I was beginning to wonder if this was a trip for me.
It just so happened that a former NBA player had a child in one of my son’s class. It was his turn to accompany his daughter on the field trip. While I had questioned my strength for this hike, I soon learned that the physically fit NBA player would be the one complaining. Unfortunately, he suffered with back issues, which surgery did not help, and as he was coming up the hill behind me I overheard him tell another parent, that his knee didn’t like the climb ever since “Barkley (Charles) fell on it in practice.” Here I thought as one of the older mothers (of four) I was not in very great shape, as it turns out, motherhood isn’t the only thing hard on parents. You can do this mom.
5. You may learn something new. Over the years I have learned how crystals are formed, how and where the Native Americans lived before we moved them, and have seen a real sod home which made me realize how rough our pioneering relatives had it. I learned about responsibilities of the US Marshals, bat colonies living in caves, and just how strong zoo glass is when a lion charged our kindergarteners. This lion was at the same zoo I went to on a field trip when I was a 6th grader. I know as an adult, I saw the zoo in a whole different light than I did as a 6th grader. This is why I needed to go. I still had much to learn.
As I close this post I just got a text message from senior son, it reads:
“One more field trip on April 27th.”
Maybe I am not finished after all!
Have you been a sponsor on a field trip? Share with us what you have learned, we would love to hear your insights!