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Five Things: Lessons from a field trip chaperone

Posted May 16

Lincoln Memorial

As Amanda wrote the other day, we're in that end-of-year frenetic race. The finish line is the last day of school, but there are plenty of hurdles along the way - recitals, tournaments, celebrations and, of course, the field trip.

In the last two weeks, I've played the role of field trip chaperone for each of my kids' classes.

Last week wasn't so tough. I ran after my kindergartner and two friends, with another mom, for a few hours at Marbles Kids Museum. Two weeks ago was a different story. I spent three days and two nights in Washington, D.C., with my older daughter's fifth grade class. It was wonderful and exhausting, all at the same time.

In both cases, I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. I know I'm lucky to have the kind of flexible work schedule that allows me to take time out to hang out with my kids on most, but not all, of their field trips. (I think it's great for them to go without me sometimes, too).

As I look back on these last couple of weeks on this race to the finish line, here are five lessons from my time as field trip chaperone:

1. My kids have pretty great friends. I love seeing how my kids interact with other kids in their class during a field trip. I enjoy being the fly on the wall as they chatter about the things that are important to them (another reason why I love to be carpool mom, too). Are they hanging with one or two friends? Are they mixing with a larger group? Can they pause for a moment to listen to instructions or a tour guide? Can they be quiet and respectful when it's required? Do they make sure somebody is OK if they get hurt? Do they rally around another friend who misses her mom? In the case of my kids, the answer is yes to all of those questions. I'm proud of the people they've chosen to hang with.

2. The parents of my kids' friends are all dealing with the same things I am. Kindergartners have a lot of energy. That, of course, I already knew before chasing three of them around Marbles last week. But I'll never forget this moment during the field trip to D.C.: The mom of one of my older daughter's friends muttered something about the attitude she'd just received from her fifth grader, that sweet little girl I've known since first grade. And I was like, "Wait, what?!? Not your daughter?!? She's giving you sass, too? It can't be!" Indeed, all of the tween girls I know also are giving their moms some attitude. In other words, I am not alone!

3. Teachers work hard. They do fantastic jobs. In the case of field trips, teachers are both educators and event planners. My older daughter's class, for instance, completed reports on the various sites that they'd see, asked informed questions during tours and knew the answers to questions that their teachers or tour guides posed. My kindergartner's class was there as part of a unit on animals. They were excited to learn all about lemurs during a viewing of "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar" at Marbles' IMAX theater. All of that prep happened as the teachers planned the logistics of the trips - a huge job especially for the teachers who put together the D.C. trip from start to finish. And, while I was exhausted after tending to a handful of kids, they were ultimately in charge of all of them. But, it wasn't just the kids. They had to make sure the chaperones were where we needed to be and that, if something didn't go as planned, there was a Plan B to fall back on. So, not that I needed a reminder, but teachers work really hard and they do fantastic jobs. I am so thankful for them!

4. Kids do love learning. Marbles was pretty much all about the play, but, in D.C., I was amazed at how long so many of the kids lingered at the various exhibits in the museums we visited. Sure, there were moments where they just wanted to run around or check out the gift shop. They are kids, after all. But I practically had to pull my group out of the Library of Congress so we could move on to the Supreme Court. And, when we got to the Lincoln Memorial, together, they proudly recited the Gettysburg Address.

5. Field trips are about more than the journey. My kids are lucky. They have been to Marbles countless times. They have spent some time in D.C., too. But that's not the case for many of their peers. Some have never left North Carolina ... or even Wake County. One mom, as she chaperoned a day trip to the N.C. Aquarium, Battleship North Carolina and beach, will never forget the handful of kids she saw tear up as they took their very first glimpse of the ocean. A teacher tells the story of a student who also started crying as the Washington Monument came into view for the first time. I had a similar experience. As we walked up to the Lincoln Memorial, one girl said, quietly, that she thought she'd ever only see it on the back of a penny.

That's what these trips are all about - moments like these. They open our kids eyes to a world that's bigger than the one they know ... and the choices that are available to them for their future.

Sarah is Go Ask Mom's editor and a mom of two.

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