The Survival of the Field Trip Fittest

February 12th, 2013 posted by Cindy Appel

Summer isn’t quite the same anymore. What with the invention of year-round schools (an evil plot devised by slave-driving bosses to keep children out of working parents’ hair as much as possible) and day camps on every street corner in those disticts without year-round schools, parents have more opportunities than ever to volunteer their services to their child’s class. Summer usually means warm weather and plenty of sunshine–or at least fewer days when parkas and longjohns are required. This translates into more “hands-on learning experiences” being scheduled by the teachers/counselors than ever before. In case you’re not into modern educational lingo “hands-on learning experience” translates roughly to what we used to call a “field trip.” And like the field trips of yesteryear, educators desperately need all the extra hands, eyes and cell phones they can get to help the proceedings proceed smoothly. However, was informed by a friend of mine that a parent must be prepared to deal with all sorts of reactions from teachers whenever you volunteer your time and service to a class. It seems some unfortunate teachers are so used to not receiving any parental assistance that when you offer to help out with a field trip these poor dears will actually break down in tears. Of happiness of course–teachers are extremely sentimental creatures, in case you didn’t know, and will be touched by your kindness in spite of having serious doubts about your sanity. Okay, that being said, it’s onto the helpful hints section.


1) Ear plugs.

Children’s voices tend to be higher in pitch and much louder in volume than adults’. It’s as if God made parents’ volume knob only go up to “10” while kids’ go all the way up to “105.” Position a few dozen school-aged “tweeters” into the marvelous acoustical surroundings of the average-sized school bus or auditorium. . . and you can hear what I mean. Protect your hearing: Bring along some cotton balls. They can do double duty later in the first aid kit .

2) Tissues and wet wipes.

Have you ever noticed how the child with the worst cold or allergy almost never misses a day of school, let alone a field trip day? Enough said.

3) Proper footwear.

Heels might look good with your outfit, but all day long your blistered feet will shriek: “Hey! The kids don’t care if you’re wearing a perfectly matched designer outfit. They are too busy enjoying digging up earthworms.” Set your priority setting to “comfort.”

4) An extra sack lunch.

It never fails. No matter how many notes the teacher sends home with little Johnny or Suzie, someone inevitably forgets to pack a lunch for the road. Be safe, not sorry. Bring at least two sandwiches, two drinks and two desserts at the bare minimum. If a miracle occurs and everyone remembered their lunch, then you can use your extra dessert as a bribe to the bus driver not to hit the same potholes quite so hard on the return trip. Which leads me to my next section–


school bus

Stop reminiscing. Riding a yellow school bus isn’t the same as being chauffeured in a stretch limo with a built-in TV, cell phone and wet bar. Your nostalgia button in your brain must be stuck permanently on “those where the days” if you think it is. School buses are big, noisy, non-air-conditioned, bump-finding, stomach-wrenching modes of transportation. I know them all too well: I once volunteered as a chaperone on a 220 mile round trip field trip to a science museum with two very large fifth grade classes and barely lived to tell the tale. If you want to arrive home intact, follow these instructions to the letter:

1) Pillows are your friends.

Bus seats tend to be at ninety degree angles, but human adult backs tend to be more at about seventy-five degrees. Any long bus ride will put out a bad back or cause immense pain if you suffer from other “sit down” problems. And Dads–it isn’t “wimpy” to want comfort on those longer trips. You’ll be in a better mood with the kids if you can still walk normally when you arrive at your destination instead of doing a poor impersonation of a bowlegged cowboy. Unless you’re going to the rodeo, of course.

2) Dramamine works wonders.

Bonine Motion Sickness Tablets 8 ea Bonine Motion Sickness Tablets

Yes, you can get car-sick on a bus. Very car-sick. Most bus drivers enjoy racing along oblivious to the fact that their shock absorbers in the middle to back of the bus (where most kids want you to sit with them) do the opposite as their name implies. I always thought the name “shock enhancers” was a more accurate description of their function, as they tend to intensify the bumps, grooves and ridges on any road pavement much to the delight of children. Kids still have a primeval gene intact that allows them to enjoy repeatedly hitting their heads on the bus ceiling–scientists at Washington University are currently mapping it for the human genome project. Unless you adore roller-coaster rides, eat a light breakfast or bring along a small paper bag for those times when the road feels like it’s coming up to meet you.

3) Attitude is everything.

Smile. Hopefully it’s contagious and everyone will be in a good mood and on their best behavior through out the day. Learn the kids’ names and who they do and don’t like to sit next to. It may save you a lot of trouble later on if little Johnny has it in for little Billy or if little Suzie can’t bad-mouth little Lisa enough. You didn’t raise these other children, so you can’t expect them to know basic courtesy, manners, or the Golden Rule. Teach them by example and, if necessary, by giving out the names you’ve just learned to the teacher. Parents are never to be thought of as “snitches,” but enforcers of law and order in the sometimes chaotic world of the field trip.

4) Learn the words to the songs.

All kids like to sing on bus trips, especially all stand-bys such as, “This is the song that never ends,” and “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves,” and the classic, “A hundred bottles of beer on the wall, a hundred bottles of beer…” Relax, take a deep breath and join in on the merriment. You can always put the cotton balls back in later if it gets too much for you. Remember, it’s “survival of the fittest” in the challenging world of field trip chaperoning. Get fit and have fun, folks. next article

about the author Cindy Appel is a freelance writer, weekly online columnist, struggling novelist, and confused mother, wife and woman (not necessarily in that order). Read her column, “Every Day *Is* Mother’s Day ” the Star Telegram. She appreciates any advice, ideas, or agent’s addresses you send her way. Forgoing any of those items, you are welcome to send cash. Tens and twenties will be fine.

This article originally appeared in The M Word Parenting Humor Magazine .

Cindy Appel (1 Posts)

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