By Andrew Hawk
Field trips come in all shapes and sizes. From visiting local museums to taking a class trip to Washington, D.C., teachers and students enjoy spending educational time outside of the school environment. Field trips do come with their own set of challenges, though. While distance from school may be enjoyable, it also means distance from all the school’s resources. Discipline plans may need to be altered. The nurse usually does not go on field trips. In addition, if anything does happen to go wrong, the public will be present to see it. The added pressure on teachers plus the excitement of students need to be managed in a proactive manner to prevent problems.
One challenge that can wreck a field trip is bullying. Typically, several classes are mixed together with teachers and a few parents acting as chaperones. The large group size and large-scale mingling of personalities can lead to an increase in bullying that might not occur in the traditional school environment. Here are some tips that will help you prevent bullying on field trips.
Establish Behavior Expectations
The morning of the field trip or the day before the trip are perfect times to review behavior expectations. During the review, include details about the importance of representing your school in public. Acknowledge that everyone will be excited and that excitement can lead to showing off. Remind students of expectations related to bullying and review the school discipline procedures.
Increase the Number of Adults
Teaching assistants and parents make great chaperones. Increasing the number of adults who are present and visible will help prevent bullying on your field trip. Be sure that adults who are not employed with the school system are aware of school behavior expectations. These people also need to be informed, in detail, of what they should do if they encounter any misbehavior.
Choose Your Extra Adults Strategically
How the extra adults are selected to attend field trips varies from school to school. Some schools let everyone who is willing go on field trips. Other schools get a list of volunteers and draw names. If you have any say in the selection process, choose strategically. If you have a student attending your field trip who has a history of exhibiting bullying behavior, select this student’s parent or guardian to go on the trip.
Group Students with a Purpose
In many cases, teachers make field trip groups and assign teachers and extra adults to be in charge of each group. I typically group students with a history of bullying behavior away from students who are likely targets. I also put the students who have a history of bullying in my group or another teacher’s group, unless the students’ parents or guardians go on the trip.
Plan Appropriate Adult Supervision
Bullying usually happens in places where adults are few or nonexistent. Examples of these places include bathrooms, the bus, and wherever students will eat. Plan to have adult supervision in these areas. Have adults present for planned restroom breaks. Evenly distribute adults on the bus. Be sure adults are spread out in the eating place as well. The problem with field trips is that the adults who go on them do not really get a break during the trip. Gone are lunches and planning periods. However, to prevent bullying, adults will have to keep their guards up throughout the entire trip.
Know the Area You Are Visiting
Familiarize yourself with the basic location of your field trip. Try to spot any areas that may prove to be problematic and plan for these areas accordingly. Problems may arise from locations that are hard to supervise or even from content. I was caught off guard once when I took a group of fifth graders to a Native American museum. One of the mannequin arrangements showed females unclothed from the waist up. The students’ behavior in this area was not appropriate. This was my fault for not having taken any preventative actions to combat poor behavior. Learn from my mistake and familiarize yourself with your destination.
Do Not Forget Students from Other Schools
While teachers can exercise some influence on their own students, you are likely to encounter students from other schools over whom you will have no influence. The best way to prepare to encounter bullying behavior from outside students is to role-play how you expect your students to respond if they encounter problems with students from other schools.
Consider Consequences While on the Field Trip
You’ll be able to address most infractions once you are back at school. However, physical bullying will need to be addressed as soon as possible. You should meet with your administrative team to hash out a plan to address incidents of bullying that cannot wait until the field trip is over.
In closing, field trips are one of the best parts of the school year. Hopefully you will go on many field trips and never encounter a serious problem. However, it is best to think through several scenarios just in case a problem does arise. Good luck and have fun!
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for sixteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past five years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University, and in 2016, he completed a second master’s degree in educational leadership, also from WGU. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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