Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 22 2012

Field Trip!

We had our end-of-year field trip last week, and it’s taken me this long to recover enough to write about it!

Just kidding. But not really.

Our field trip was an overnight (ours is the only overnight in the whole school…are we ambitious or crazy?) to Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It was really cool, but totally exhausting. In Santa Fe we went to the Capitol Building, which was kind of a bust because the kids had zero background knowledge of government and how bills work and such, so they were totally confused by the decidedly non-kid-friendly explanations, and then the Children’s Museum. The Children’s Museum was, to my mind, geared mostly at 6-8 year olds, but my 10-11 year olds were too busy blowing giant bubbles, playing with noisemakers, and painting their faces to notice, so that was great!

We stayed overnight in a hotel in ABQ, who screwed up our rooms, so I had to fix them and get a giant headache. But they had a pool and other than one minor concussion and a bloody nose/split lip, we made it out of there unharmed! Then the next day in ABQ we went to Explora, which is this awesome hands-on science center. On the minus side, there were virtually no explanations of how any of the exhibits were science, so it was a lot of “look what cool thing you can do using the principles of water flow” but not a lot of “and here’s why it works, let’s learn about water.” Mostly I just had to get over the fact that they weren’t exactly learning the whole time, but they had a blast making water mazes and solving wooden puzzles and building the best helicopter out of Dixie cups.

Then we went to the Natural History Museum, where I took almost all of my class and kept them with me so we actually, you know, learned something about dinosaurs instead of running amok (sorry, I really can’t help it). Plus their behavior, which was already much worse than expected, was deteriorating, so they got to hang with me and we had no further behavior issues. But they loved it! We watched a 3D movie about Sea Rex marine reptiles (during which the chaperones promptly fell asleep, and I kept nodding off blissfully only to be awakened every 5 seconds by an enraptured munchkin whispering my name to show me something) and toured all the eras, complete with dinos and skeletons. It was pretty awesome.

The kids had a blast, and on their field trip surveys afterward multiple kids asked for the field trip to last longer (they suggested a week…ha!). Most of them had never been to any of the museums we visited, and many had never been to Santa Fe at all. Even staying in a somewhat-nice hotel with a swimming pool was a real treat.

I think the thing that hit me the most, though, was the parents. The kids were psyched and had no worries about going overnight, and I kind of didn’t think too hard about it because all the parent permission slips came back immediately in the affirmative. But I had at least 7 parents calling me at different times during the trip to check on their kiddos and make sure they were doing OK. The first call came at 12:30 on Friday, before they even would have been home from school on a normal day! I got multiple texts and phone calls from the same parents, even parents who have rarely called me before. What I realized, as I fielded calls and reassured worried parents, was that our kids almost never go out in the world on their own. Families are large and close out here, and kids are never too far away from an auntie or cousin who will take care of them. But it took a lot of courage and a lot of trust for my kids’ parents to let me take them away, even just for a night.

I got a little bit of a preview of how scary it is for our families to think about their kids going away to college. Out here, going to college pretty much necessitates going away, leaving the rez, and living somewhere else, at least for a while. And on the one hand, every one of my kids’ families wants their child to have new experiences, learn as much as they can, and succeed. But on the other hand, going away takes the kid away from everything that is familiar and safe, and it introduces the very real and very devastating possibility that they might not return to the place their families call home.

Of course, all of my kids were coming home the very next day, and we weren’t going too far. But it was still a giant step outside the comfort zone for so many of our families, and they were all waiting anxiously to hug and kiss their little ones as soon as the bus pulled back in. As I texted parents, called grandmas, and watched every kid walk away with their loved ones, I felt very honored to have been trusted with their children.

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    In which I muse about New Mexico, teaching, and life in general.

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