Perhaps one of the most challenging times in the school year is the annual class overseas or overnight school trip, not to mention the other trips and co-curricular events by various school groups. These trips and events are often a nightmare for principals and chaperones, although fun for students. It is my opinion that it is not the responsibility of the school to provide planned “fun” trips for any grade or group of students. Every activity must have an educational purpose. School is for the purpose of education and the formation of students to live successfully, and for Christian schools to help students become citizens of the kingdom of God. Follow as I unfold my beliefs and principles.
Why do teachers, principals, and often students think that taking a class trip just for the purpose of traveling abroad and having fun is beneficial to the students? It is because most of these school leaders do not truly understand the purpose of education and what is needed to properly train students to perform in the world. Secondly, many do not understand the gravity of the responsibilities of supervising a large number of students and what goes on in the students’ minds during these trips.
On a class trip, these high-energy students cause an eruption of disorderly behavior that will change their lives forever. Many times, the chaperones are not even aware of the kinds of activities the students participate in. The truth is that there is very little financial equity involved in these school trips. One student can barely purchase his or her ticket and may only have very little pocket change on the trip. Another student may have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend for whatever he or she wants. This kind of behavior should not be allowed on a school-sponsored trip. I know that many school leaders will argue that they have never had problems with their students on a school trip. The truth is most times the painful stories are never told. The principals and parents will never know what really happened. They will never know of the emotional and psychological damage they would have caused to our budding citizens.
It is my view that school, class or special group trips are of no value unless it is for the purpose of educating and training students. Trip organizers and chaperones should put in place, and follow strict and practical guidelines.
• All school day or overnight trips and co-curricular events of any kind are to be a part of the school curriculum and fit into the overall goals and philosophy of the school. Properly planned school trips can be for the purpose of providing a holistic educational experience for the children.
• The cost of all trips and co-curricular events, including class parties, school fun days, casual or dress-up days should be communicated to parents at the beginning of each school year so they can plan their schedule and budget.
• No principal or teacher should introduce new trips or any other co-curricular activities not included in the school calendar at the beginning of the school year. This includes fun days, visits to historical site, etc.
• The cost of trips and days events should not be prohibitive for parents. For example, charging students 50 cents, $1, $5, or $10, for a fun day should be strongly discouraged, especially when parents were not informed at the beginning of the school year.
• Senior or junior class trips or banquets should be a fixed date and activity in the calendar of events with cost included.
• Destinations of senior or junior class trips should be the same each year. This makes it easier and great for planning. Students should not be allowed to come up with their creative destinations and cost. All trips are to be school-originated and controlled.
Let me share with you a personal story how these guidelines work. When our daughter was registering to enter Grade 9 at Andrews Academy, Michigan, we received a handout entitled “Co-Curricular Planning Guide for Out-of-School and/or Cost Related Activities.” It was a list of all school trips, events, dates, and related costs. This list also informed us that four years later there would be a senior class trip, where it would be, and its cost. All senior classes went to the same destination each year. The trips were well organized and structured with morning devotions, lectures to meet the needs of student development and, of course, fun times.
There were a number of trips, banquets and other co-curricular events planned each year and over the four-year period in high school. Some of the trips and events were required for graduation. Others were on the list to assist the students in accumulating a certain number of credits required to complete the school year or to graduate. Each event on the list was assigned points. The student was required to accumulate 21 points of co-curricular activities to graduate.
With this arrangement, students could select not to attend a certain co-curricular event. However, he or she must accumulate enough points of co-curricular activities to obtain a high school certificate. At the end of the handout were the following words: “We as parents have planned the cost and number of school days affected by the above selections and feel this is a reasonable program that can be handled successfully by the student. We have noted that provisions of school’s attendance policy and realize that excessive absences and tardiness make the student ineligible to participate in overnight school trips and hold leadership offices and positions.” After making the selection of activities both parent and student signed the document and turned it to complete registration. Let us make our schools a place of equal opportunity, fun and active learning at all times.