Teacher Adventures: School Trips

Teacher Adventures: School Trips

When adults reminisce about their school days, memories of school trips are often at the forefront of their minds. School trips for children are often their first chance to be away from family and to have extended sleepovers, to have pillow fights, to have midnight feasts, to eat lunch on the bus before it has left the car park, to sing the same songs over and over just to wind staff up!

Teachers who are tasked with organising a trip often focus on the angst and anxiety brought about from paperwork and policy procedures, managing the students at airports or train stations, hotel rooming mix ups and the lack of chips or pizzas to fill up hungry pupils! However most teachers realise that school trips are a unique and special opportunity for encouraging pupils to engage with people and places in a new way and continue to plan them! Some of my school trip experiences did make me question the reasons I kept planning them!

Teaching Geography in Mexico, 5 night field trips were organised to cover the GCSE course requirements. On one trip, 35 excited year 10 pupils and 2 teachers, including me, were waved off as we set out for Zitacuaro, a 4 hour coach ride away. Zitácuaro, officially known as Heroica Zitácuaro, is a city in the Mexican state of Michoacán, which lies at the extreme eastern side of Michoacán and borders on the adjacent state of México.

The pupils worked hard at collecting river data (with no mishaps!), completed an urban survey by collating information on use of buildings (with no mishaps!), carried out a traffic survey on a new by-pass (with no mishaps!) and were amazed at the spectacle of millions of Monarch butterflies (with no mishaps!). Monarch Butterflies migrate annually from points east of the Rocky Mountains, travelling thousands of miles to hibernate in Mexico, in Zitacuaro, in the oyamel fir trees that are found there. On the final morning, we were extremely fortunate to view the astounding spectacle of thousands of butterflies huddled on tree branches. Then it was time to return to Mexico City, with a tired and contented group after a very successful, calamity free trip.

Teachers always make the mistake of believing that after a school trip, exhaustion, from sleepless nights and full days, will take over and pupils will sleep on the return journey. This never happens! As the bus meandered through small villages, it became apparent there was a hold up in front of us, which meant we were proceeding at a snail’s pace. At a small village when we were at a standstill, the pupils asked if they could get off the coach to buy some refreshments from a roadside shop. We were going nowhere fast and it seemed a good opportunity to stretch legs. With everybody suitably energised and enlivened by an intake of chocolate and coca cola, the coach rumbled forward. 90 minutes later, Jose (yes I remember these specific details..) came to the front of the coach and said, “Miss, where’s Marianna?” I told him to go and sit down and stop fooling around. He persisted. I got up and looked down the coach. There was no Marianna. This is the nightmare scenario of any school trip.

There were no mobile phones at this time, AA telephone boxes, local police stations or service stations. I had no option other than to ask the coach driver to turn around and drive us back to the tiny Mexican roadside village we had stopped at. Now there was complete silence in the coach! The pupils were as anxious as I was. It seemed to be a very long 90 minute return journey. As we approached the village, (cliché alert!), my heart was in my mouth……..and there, sat on the roadside was Marianna! There were wild cheers from the pupils in the coach. The coolest, calmest person was Marianna. As a fluent Spanish speaker, she had assured the concerned Mexican villagers, there was nothing to worry about! Marianna said she knew we would come back for her! “I knew you wouldn’t leave me here, Miss,” she said to me with a wry, but winning smile as she climbed aboard the coach! As she took her seat on the coach, I felt a huge sense of relief and counted everyone on the coach three times to make sure everyone was there!!

And for every school trip I organised after this I counted pupils once, twice….and never lost (or left behind) another pupil again!! That didn’t help during the cyclone on our school trip to Madagascar…but that is another story.

Lynn Frugtniet