I read a post by a former student this afternoon about a young 8th grade student coming to her door and trying to sell her candy for a class field trip to the nation’s capital. She didn’t buy any candy but made a cash donation instead. The story ended with her saying she had chaperoned one of those trips and how meaningful it was, “Many of those kids had never been out of Highland County.”
While I’ve never been part of taking an entire class on a long-distance field trip I have worked with smaller groups. Back in the 1970s my friend Norman Gingerich and I took a group of six junior high kids to Washington DC for a couple of days and then to Monticello in Virginia. It was a great trip and created life-time memories for both students and adults. It was the longest trip any of them had ever taken, the first time they had been away from their families, and by far the biggest city they’d ever seen.
On another occasion I took five junior high special education kids to Cincinnati for a Reds game. When the game ended I decided it would be neat to drive across the Brent Spence Bridge and take the river route down to the I-275 bridge. For a couple kids this was both their first visit to Kentucky and their first time out of Ohio. This diversion was totally spontaneous and a treat for everyone but one student. Since it wasn’t mentioned on the information sheet I’d sent to the parents the kid became overly nervous because he was leaving Ohio without his mom knowing. As we crossed the Ohio River he vocally announced that he knew his mother was going to kill him when she found out she’d gone to Kentucky without her permission.
Looking back I suppose I did push the liability issue a bit but back then few of us ever worried about such things. Like so many times in teaching you just don’t want to pass up a “teachable moment.” I’m not sure that’s possible in today’s “teach to the test” environment. All I can say is, that’s too bad. Those students who took those trips with Norm and I still mention them when we meet. They may not remember anything else from our classes, but they remember driving under that “Welcome to Kentucky” sign.