I am definitely not normal when I hear the words "Field Trip". I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I'm still a "newbie" teacher, so the effects of taking 60 plus children on a school bus for an educational trip hasn't worn on me yet. When my seasoned counterparts hear the words, they groan, sigh, and want nothing more than to hide away in a dark whole until the Field Trip day has passed.
Not this teacher!
Nope, I get all excited and nutso - similar to the way the kids act.
I think of field trips as a day off. A day to get out of the building, explore and learn in new surroundings, and just have fun. In fact, I'm sometimes worse than the kids. I will sing on the school bus, tickle kids while they're trying to sleep, and have to constantly remind myself that I'm supposed to be the authority figure - not another student.
And even though this is my first year teaching, I've been on quite a few field trips - either as a teachery person or a mother.
Field trips in the past all have one thing in common: One extremely loud and chaotic bus ride.
When you pack kids on a school bus, you just expect it to be noisy. You expect there to be kids standing up and turning around to talk to their friends. You expect to constantly repeat "Not so loud", "Get down from there", "Turn around", and even "Get your mouth off of that".
And then, when you arrive at your destination, it's a constant rinse and repeat of "Stay in line", "Pay attention", "Be quiet" and "You were told not to touch that"
None of that stuff bothers me - and I've got quite accustomed to it.
Except for yesterday, I got to experience something I've never experienced before. A totally new take on field trips. Situations that left me speechless - totally and utterly shocked.
It started when we had to cram three 4th grade classes on to one bus. That meant three kids to a seat. I sat towards the back of the bus, and the other two teachers sat in the front. Fireworks were going off in my head that despite only having a 30 minute bus ride - it was going to feel MUCH longer than that.
But, then the bus started moving and there was a slight buzz coming from each of the seats. I could actually talk to the children seated around me without having to raise my voice at all. In fact, I could talk to children seated a few seats away from me with only having to raise my voice slightly. I could hear myself think. There was no loud commotion. I didn't have to tell a single child to sit down or turn around or get their mouths off of anything.
Then, if that wasn't strange enough, when we drove through town the bus went completely silent. I looked to the other fourth grade teachers that were seated at the front of the bus, and saw that they had raised one of their arms. The kids all took immediate notice and stopped mid sentence. I could almost hear a pin drop - if it wasn't for the roaring engine of the bus.
I sat there completely stunned. What was this sorcery?
Once we got through town and the teachers lowered their arms, the kids went back to the slight hum of their talking.
A short while later, we arrived at the park where we'd be eating lunch. As soon as the bus stopped, I experienced the immediate silence again. The kids, and myself, sat there waiting for instructions. The kids then unloaded off the bus and automatically set themselves up into three neat rows - each row being the original class lines.
We led the kids over to the eating area, and we ate lunch. I sat with some of my students and we talked and laughed and had a good time. Then, we let the kids run around for a bit. Shortly thereafter, it was back on the bus to head to our field trip destination: A state park for environmental education.
The kids repeated their bus behaviors on the trip there. Once we arrived, they repeated their line formation routine. We broke up in to groups and visited three stations where park employees gave lessons on aquatic life, animals, and recycling.
I'll admit that the lessons weren't exactly the most enjoyable things to sit through. But, as I watched my class I was so impressed at how well they hid their ancyness. Some took to pulling grass (we were sitting on the ground outside). Some fiddled with their shoes. But all of them stayed quiet, raised their hands to ask questions, and responded when asked. They got really excited about petting a snake and sorting trash into recyclable piles. They behaved like proper ladies and gentlemen the ENTIRE time.
The bus ride home was no different than the bus ride there.
Once we got back to the school, the teachers all showered the students with praise. We couldn't have asked for a better day.
I corralled my kids back to class, and gave them all a big spill on how proud I was of them. The Friday afternoon snack store (a school thing) was still open, so I bought the entire class a Popsicle and took them outside for the rest of the day.
It was out on the playground that one of the other 4th grade teachers filled me on the bus mystery. Apparently, the school district trains the kids on how to act on a bus when they go home or go on field trips. The rules include talking so that only their neighbor can hear them and when driving through a populated area (town) the teachers raise their arms, and that indicates for the students to be completely silent so that the bus driver can focus. Pretty smart, if you ask me.
One thing I do know is that I got to meet a whole new group of kids yesterday. Sometimes, I forget how strict and structured I portray myself in the classroom. When I go on field trips I become a different teacher - and the kids pick up on it. While I was praising them on their behavior, they were offering praise on how "cool" I was while away. And it really made me think.
I often forget that being in school can be just as stressful for the kids as it is for me. Trying to rally and corral twenty 4th graders is a difficult task. I ask so much of them. I have expectations and rules that I expect them to follow every day. But, being rallied around and following all of the rules and expectations can be just as difficult as enforcing them. We all need time to relax. And then, when they are given that time to relax and be a lot less structured - I get to see how well they really can behave without the constant reminders.
They got to see a different side of me - and I of them.
Which has now made me realize that I can add some different techniques to my tool bag. I have to come out of my shell now and then and let them see the real me... not just "Ms. Hill - Teacher". I'm a regular old person... not old.. just a regular person. I enjoy having fun. I enjoy letting my hair down now and then. And I have to understand that they need that too.
I have a feeling that even though there won't be regular field trips - we will now have more situations come up for stepping outside the normal school routines.