Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Chaperone

The Chaperone. I'm the chaperone. I like the sound of that. Sounds like a title for a badass action movie. But I'm not escorting captured terrorists or money-laundering thugs or mobsters. My chaperone duties entail corralling kids and making sure no one gets left behind. I am the field trip chaperone.

My firstborn will graduate from high school in a few short weeks. I attended every field trip he ever took until fifth grade, when there was a limit on how many chaperones could go and names were picked out of a hat. I wasn't picked. They went to Fair Oaks Farm. I was bummed. I love experiencing new places and I enjoy sitting back and watching how the kids interact with each other. Then when my son was in 8th grade, the class took a trip to Ohio to the Cedar Point Amusement Park and my son wanted my husband to go. So, I've missed out on a couple trips, but not many. I had four more sons after him and my youngest is now in 1st grade. I've been on a lot of field trips in my day.

Some have been disastrous, but most of the time, things go smoothly. I've been on outdoor trips in the pouring rain, got stuck in a two hour traffic jam on I-94 on a yellow bus, had a student hide in a museum amused by the frantic adults trying to find him, dealt with queasy kids and was on a bus that hit a merging car.

I've been to history museums, science museums, children's museums. I've been to pet stores and grocery stores. I've been on pumpkin farm and apple farm and dairy farm and historic farm field trips. I've been on a boat ride and to a bowling alley. I've been to planetariums, an aquarium, a nature center, an airport, a space center. And I've been to the zoos many, many times.

Last month I was able to attend a play with youngest son. Those are usually pleasant trips. I've done lots of those over the years. You lead them off the bus and to their seats and then you sit and watch the play. Sometimes there are a couple clowns who disrupt things, but most of the kids are excited to be out of the classroom and don't cause a bit of trouble.

Museums are often the most challenging places to go with a big group of kids. They want to touch the stuff they shouldn't touch. They want to explore the places where they are not supposed to be. They are loud where they should be quiet. They see a long, wide open hallway and they run and run and run. They want to look at EVERY SINGLE THING in the gift shop even if they only have twelve cents in their pocket.

This past week my 10-year-old was lucky enough to be able to go on three field trips. One was a trip to a Cubs game. I signed up to go on that one, but they had so many kids going that they were only able to take one adult. And then there were three staffers. And there was a big number of kids. At the last minute some parents got called since some students were absent and I was able to go. Even though it was a cold and rainy day, I always love being at Wrigley Field. The day wasn't nearly as relaxing as when I normally go. I don't think I got to sit for a full inning because kids had to go to the bathroom or wanted to go buy a souvenir or wanted to go buy nachos. But the kids had a fun and memorable day and that's what it's all about.

I can still recall many of the field trips of my youth. I don't remember a lot of the lessons that were taught in the classroom and I couldn't name a lot of my classmates, but I can remember our trip to the Jay's Potato Chip Factory and the Chicago museums and the zoo and trips to Chinatown and a Greektown and Six Flags Great America and the local grocery store for an economics lesson.

The following Monday was another field trip for my son with the enrichment classes to the Museum of Science and Industry. They had plenty of parents going, so I wasn't able to do that one. But three days later I got to go on a fun full-day trip to a historic farm in the northern suburbs. The kids got to bake biscuits from scratch, milk a cow and feed chickens. Some of these kids had never set foot on a farm or been anywhere near animals. It was great to see them excited about learning about farming a century ago.

Even outside of school, I take my kids a lot of places and expose them to a lot of experiences. I love field trips, whether it's with a class of 3rd graders or just a couple of my kids. I am the chaperone. That's me.

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