Planning a Field Trip?
Know These Essential Tricks!
By NAfME Member Audrey Carballo
Ah, field trips! Those two words evoke pleasure in the hearts of students and terror in the hearts of teachers. From a student’s point of view, they are handed a form, and—voila!—their magical journey has begun. For us, that form represents weeks or months of preparation and endless hours of planning and organization.
I’m extremely lazy and, having admitted that, I complete every job in the most efficient way possible. Here are my tips and tricks to help ensure your trip goes as smoothly as you always dreamed it would.
What, Where, and When?
Every school district has its own set of procedures as it pertains to field trips. Even if this is your first time planning a trip, make sure you read and understand the guidelines your district or county sets forth when planning a trip. Some have one set of rules for in-county trips and other restrictions for out-of-county or district/out-of-state/international trips. Because of standardized testing, many principals don’t want students to miss instruction during critical testing dates. Check with them first! Completing all of the paperwork before you find out your administrator won’t let you go anywhere between January and April is a waste of time for everyone involved.
There are several kinds of trips on which you can take your students. Performance trips coupled with fun are the ones in which my students participate. There are adjudication trips. These are ventures where your group engages in some type of competition or evaluation. Sometimes these trips are mandatory, and the dates are set by the district, county, or state music association. Most often, these excursions involve going to the venue, performing, and travelling back to school. The third type is a blend of both. The students perform; they are judged (or not) and continue to enjoy the rest of their day (or days) in the location.
After you decide which one best suits you and your group, start scoping out places which will accommodate your plans. I’ve found that most travel companies charge a premium for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday trips. During the week travel is less expensive. If you can swing it, I highly suggest a date during the week. Most amusement parks are not as crowded during the week than they are on weekends.
We take our performing groups to a popular amusement park in our state. The trip is a combination performance/fun trip. There is paperwork involved and plenty of forms to be filled out months before the bus arrives, but the visit accomplishes two important things. First, the singers experience a performance away from their comfortable school setting, and second, they are rewarded after they sing by being able to enjoy the park (with their chaperone) for the rest of the day.
Taking on the workload of planning a trip by yourself is daunting. If you can, enlist the help of a fellow music teacher or a parent from your booster club. Many hands make light work! After you have gotten the green light from your administration as to when or what time of year they are willing to approve your trip, contact several travel companies.
In my county, we are obligated to present three bids, and one of them must be a minority company. This part alone could take up to a week or more. I always make my requests in writing. This way, there is no confusion. Since we go away for only one day—this is not an overnight trip—I ask that the bid include a lunch and dinner meal voucher for every person. One year, I tried to hold down the cost and didn’t ask the company to provide them. What I wound up with was a bus full of students who used all their money on souvenirs but didn’t eat any meals!! The parents were furious . . . with ME! I have since learned my lesson. Now, everyone gets a lunch voucher and dinner voucher to be used in the park. If they choose not to eat, that’s their responsibility.
Letter to Parents
Since I am so proactive, I secure the date of the trip at the beginning of the school year. Our travel date is usually during the second or third week in May of the following year. A letter of intent is sent to the parents of potential participants many months in advance so there is absolutely no question as to how the procedure is going to happen.
I urge parents to get volunteer status. Many districts have strict policies as to who is allowed to accompany students on trips. Often this process takes up to a month or more for the district to give clearance. I do not allow any parent to board a bus or go with us who does not have clearance from our district. Remember: It is your name on that form. You are ultimately responsible if anything happens. You could lose your job!
In the letter, I make sure to be very clear that if they are not on time for the bus to leave the school, there are no refunds. All of the restrictions are made very clear in the letter. I have the parent sign stating they understand everything they have read. Money is not collected from any student unless I have that letter. I save the letter in my Dropbox and make revisions from year to year. I tweak it as necessary.
Preparation is the key to any great performance. Along with preparation is constant communication. Communication with parents, the students, the performance venue, your administration and the tour company. Make a list of what you need to do. Keep revising the list as you go along. Leave plenty of time to have any special performance outfits made, money collected, and rehearsals scheduled.
Always have a plan B. I’ve been planning trips like this for more than 20 years, and there is always something that happens during each and every trip. Enlist parents who are willing to be your helpers. Let them take the videos and pictures. Don’t ever assign yourself students to chaperone. You need to be free to supervise the overall scheme of things.
With an enormous amount of planning and a little luck, you are sure to have an amazing performance. Your students will make you proud!
About the author:
Audrey Carballo, a 36-year NAfME member, is in her 36th year as a music educator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the fourth largest school system in the country. Her teaching experiences include general music, exploratory music, and chorus to regular and exceptional students in elementary, middle school, high school, and exceptional student settings.
She has been an Assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently serves on the National Education Association Member Advisory Board Panel and as the Union Steward and Chairperson of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Board Council at her school. Recently, Audrey was the Children’s Choir Director for the Miami Music Project, which is an El Sistema program spearheaded by the world renowned conductor, James Judd.
One of her most rewarding experiences has been with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to teaching Broadcast Journalism classes, and giving private lessons in voice, composition, theory and piano, her duties included being the Vocal and Advanced Theory instructor for their Better Chance Music Production Program. Audrey was one of the co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness titled, “A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction: Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum.”
Audrey collaborated with Jin Ho Choi (another instructor at the Lighthouse) for nine months, creating their Braille Music Distance Learning course.
Follow Audrey on Twitter @scarlettfeenix.
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