I am wired for worrying. For this reason, and this reason alone, I dread taking my students on field trips. But I usually do it anyway. Last year, as much as my students’ behavior was difficult to manage, I was secretly relieved that whenever the topic of trips came up, I could point to the conduct issues as a valid reason for not leaving the building.
This year, I have no such excuse. We’ve already had one trip, which was arranged by an outside organization which arranged for a school bus to pick us up and drop us off. This small convenience erased most of my usual worry, because the one field-trip related detail that causes me the most stress is transportation. I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve taken a school bus on a field trip during the years I’ve taught in New York City; we almost always have to take the subway. And though I love to share that fact with non-city teachers, because the expressions of surprise, admiration and “you’re out of your mind” greatly amuse me, I dislike the actual experience of taking my students on the subway. I worry from the moment we leave the building. While we’re at our destination, I’m fine, but then I worry again when we begin the return trip. Naturally, I make them stand as far away from the tracks as possible, ideally against the wall, because I worry that one of them might fall. Obviously I really loathe the stations that have tracks on both sides. Once the train pulls into the station, I am always the very last person to get on the train, to make sure that all the kids made it onto the train. It’s remarkable, I think, that I’ve never been left behind.
The other concern about field trips is the walking. As a concept, I have no problem with walking, but walking and trying to shepherd a group of 30 kids, sometimes more, through several city blocks and across streets, causes a fair amount of anxiety. I always ask the students to keep one ear free if they’re going to listen to music, and while they roll their eyes, they usually comply. Though I do often have to point out how much I’d hate to have to call their parents and use the phrase “road pizza”. Sometimes twisted humor is needed to make a point, even though the idea of a kid getting hit by a car is a real fear of mine.
And of course, I worry that someone will get off the line, because it seems like someone always wants to stop at one of the many bodegas that we pass along the way. I always say no, they ask again anyway. Ironically, I also have to be alert for kids getting on the line, which has happened a few times when kids have been banned from a trip. Since we walk a pretty predictable route, it’s not hard for a student who’s not allowed to go to try to sneak along with the class once we’re out of the building. This is where being neurotic is a plus, because I’ve always caught the kids who try to do this.
In a couple of weeks, I’m taking the students to see a production of A Christmas Carol. After that, if the weather’s nice, we’ll head up to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. Naturally, I’m already worrying, and what does it say about me, that I’m adding more even more walking to this trip? I’ve done this particular excursion several times, and it’s always fun, and I always stress like mad before and breathe a huge sigh of relief after I return all the kids safely back to school. Of course, if the trip is successful, it won’t be the end of any future worrying, because I’ll have no reason not to plan more trips.
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