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On The Same Page-Rob Cothran

Travel should be enjoyable and educational. The students are there to discover and experience new things!

As teachers, we all take classes and attend endless workshops on classroom management and how to organize your room to ensure for a productive learning environment.  What happens when that environment is suddenly outside of the classroom and sometimes in an unfamiliar city or destination?  If you have never traveled with a large group, it might seem like a very daunting task to juggle planning, logistics, discipline, and most importantly student learning while on a trip.  I’ve been traveling with large groups as a participant, group leader, or service host for over twenty-five years and have learned a few things (mostly due to mistakes made) over that time.


Most importantly – plan, plan, plan.  The more preparation you can do before the trip, the more time you will have to be present with the students, thus eliminating a chance for behavior problems to arise.  Communication is also the key.  Not just with adult chaperones on the trip, but with the students as well.  They don’t always need to have every detail, but they are part of the trip and should feel as such.  Speaking of chaperones, it is also key to make sure there is an established chain of command.  I know that is hard sometimes, especially if one of those chaperones happens to be an administrator at the school, but you as the group leader have spent the time organizing the trip so any decisions regarding the trip ultimately need to come from you.  If the students see that you may not have the final authority, there is a bigger chance they will not give you their full respect and as we all know, this can lead to several unwanted behavioral issues. 


Know your students on the trip and make sure they know you.  This may sound obvious but if you are a class sponsor and are organizing a senior class trip, you may not have had some of the students in class.  The solution to this goes back to the initial preparation.  As you are getting registrations in, study the names.  Seek out other teachers who have had students in their classes that are unfamiliar to you.  Have more than one pre-trip meeting with all of the participants.  Not only will this help disseminate information, but it will also give you opportunities to learn more about the students and chaperones.


In the end, several of the strategies that we learn in those classes and workshops can still apply to group travel.  They may need to be augmented a little to account for not being in a closed environment, but if you always approach it with the mindset of what is best for the students, it will usually work.  Keep in mind that travel should be enjoyable and educational.  The students are there to discover and experience new things and if everyone is on the same page and organized, this will be much easier to accomplish.                  

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