What Field Trips Are Really Like For Teachers

What Field Trips Are Really Like For Teachers

Have you ever seen a teacher leading a group of students on field trips and thought to yourself “That sure looks like fun!”? Or are you a new teacher anticipating your first field trip ever as a licensed educator? Well, here’s a quick overview of what a field trip day looks like.

You don’t sleep the night before...

I’m not talking the Christmas Eve can’t sleep, I’m talking the anxiety-ridden-worst-case-scenario-imagining restless kind of can’t sleep. What if someone has an allergic reaction to the sheep at the petting zoo and how on earth you’re going to get through a whole day in public with these kids without any fatalities.

Your alarm sounds and you wake up sick... every single time.

Your eyes open. You realize that you are not feeling well at all. In fact, you feel like your insides have been filled with napalm. But you can’t take a sick day, you’re leading the field trip! You pull yourself out of bed, set your phone to play a continuous loop of “Eye of the Tiger” all the way until you pull into the school parking lot. You walk into school, turn the corner to your classroom hallway, and see…

A line of students with last-minute permission slips is waiting at your door.

Collecting a neat pile of all the signed permission slips before your field trip is a nice dream, but nothing more. Your future valedictorians had them in weeks ago, but the rest of the class shoves hastily signed permission slips in your face. Thrown off and behind schedule, you herd your class to the bus. Unfortunately…

Your chaperones are late

Parent chaperones are never on time. They come screaming into the parking lot seconds before you give up all hope and climb, frazzled, onto the bus where they immediately sit together right behind the bus driver where they are of no help whatsoever. 

The bus driver won’t turn down his radio

There are many wonderful bus drivers in this world, but they apparently don’t ever draw field trip duty. Yours is a grouchy old friend who drinks Pepsi from a 3-gallon jug and speaks fondly of the days when he could toss “mouthy brats” off his bus, regardless of it being in motion. So you shout your instructions and perform your second headcount over unnecessarily loud country music.

The bus lurches forward and chaos ensues.

The next twenty minutes consist of kids standing up on seats, opening and closing the sliding windows at random, making rude faces at other drivers on the road, singing ear-shatteringly terrible renditions of popular songs and shouting requests for “in-flight movies” at the driver.

Someone announces they need to go to the bathroom the second you’ve left the parking lot.

Of course! You tell them to hold it and think dry thoughts (that’s what you do all day after all) but the driver’s quest to hit each and every pothole makes that very difficult. You make it to your destination (dry, thank goodness) and…

The head counting begins. Lots and lots of head counting. All. Day.

You do a head count as students get off the bus. You do a head count after you finally get them in line. You do a head count while you’re walking into the building. And you do a head count once you get everyone inside the building. This may seem excessive, but a teacher on a field trip performs, on average, seven thousand head counts in the space of a few hours.

You come up short. A student is missing.

You panic-count another 3 times just to make sure you didn’t miscount, but you didn’t. You scan your students’ faces to determine who is the missing piece and then immediately start interrogating your entire class, but no one knows anything. You go over the last 10 minutes in your mind like an FBI detective.

He had accidentally followed the wrong class around for the past fifteen minutes before realizing it.

This is mildly embarrassing for them and utterly terrifying for you. You take a deep sigh of relief and turn around to find the chaperones chatting with each other.

The kids are touching everything. Every little thing that should not be touched.

Animals, priceless artifacts, statues on display, preserved artwork, fire alarms… if it should not be touched, students on a field trip touch it, try as you might to stop it. The disapproving gaze of a security guard is felt on the back of your head all day.

Ahh, lunch time!

Lunch is an oasis of almost-peace. Students feed together in packs, like hyenas gorging themselves on a zebra. As such, it’s relatively easy to keep an eye on all of them while they eat.

You continue head counting with every bite.

The chaperones take this time to ask you intensely personal questions that your psychiatrist hasn’t even thought of yet. You end lunch early and send everyone to the bathroom to wash the orange dust off their hands.

Another student is missing.

It’s not that you’re doing the head count wrong, disappearing at inconvenient times is what kids on field trips do best. You check the bathroom stalls, empty. After another 5 minutes of panicking, searching, and having a near heart attack, the missing student comes strolling back into the picture with a can of coke from the vending machines they passed by earlier.

There is an “incident.”

Sometimes it’s a medical emergency, sometimes it’s a fight and sometimes a student breaks a sink off the wall in the bathroom. Whatever happens, it’s not a field trip without a long talk with the facilities manager. Many apologies later, you get the kids out of there and back on the bus. 

The bus ride back is even more insane.

The parody version of “Wrecking Ball” sung by thirty-five voices at once makes relaxation impossible. Just when you think your brain is about to explode, you’re pulling up to the school. You jump off and inhale a deep breath of fresh…

“How’d it go?” Your principal asks, wanting to know every single detail about the entire trip, especially the ones you really didn’t want anyone to ever speak of again.

You try to hold a conversation with him while simultaneously doing your last head count as the kids pour off the bus before the anxious bus driver peels off with a kid sleeping in the back. This intense interrogation lasts about an hour. Just enough time until the last parent shows up 40 minutes late to pick up the last student.

You wander like a zombie down the hall toward your classroom limping from exhaustion.

You collapse in a heap on your classroom floor.

You still need to teach the next day...

Once you’ve recovered your strength (or realized that you collapsed next to that unidentified stain on the floor), you stand up and head home. With clearly no energy to cook dinner, you swallow whatever frozen BOGO deal is left in your freezer, shower the 9 layers of sweat and germs off your body and melt into your bed.

Your brain should stop automatically head counting within the next day or so.

Also Check Out:

What Field Trips Are Really Like For Teachers

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Senior Member

Andrew is a Jr. High Spanish teacher. He loves rock 'n roll, Chinese food and collecting military antiques. When he's not teaching teens that "¿Cómo se llama?" has nothing to do with Peruvian quadrupeds, he can be found hanging out with his family, playing drums, buying old Russian helmets and plotting the downfall of internet translation apps.

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