A few days ago I mentioned our big upcoming reward field trip (which, by the way, the student in question decided she didn't want me to get involved, so I did not). It happened Thursday, and it was awesome.


98.6% awesome, to be precise.

Let me explain.

We went to our local amusement park. It's a tradition at my school to take the 8th graders, and they used to do it on the last day of school, but last year the district said no one could use buses during the last week at all. We still have two more weeks, but the park is only open sporadically till Memorial Day and wasn't open during the day any days next week, so Thursday it was.

Not all of our kids went; because it was a reward, you could only go if you'd had no referrals for the last 6 weeks, so that knocked out everyone who'd ditched or gotten in a fight or did something else generally stupid recently (though a number of those got their parents to excuse them and went anyway - which, whatever, I have some sympathy with because they're finishing 8th grade too and want that celebration).

And it costs money, around $20, and that took out some more kids (next year, I'm going to come up with some sort of fundraiser that kids can do if they want so that more can go, because it made me really sad that some of them stayed back because they couldn't afford it).

But 140 of our students came on the buses with us. We got there at 9:30, left at 4:30, and had a great time in the 7 hours in between. As a chaperone, I had to do lunch duty for 45 minutes, but other than that, I was free to go on the rides and stuff just like everyone else, so several of my teacher friends and I spent the day screaming our ways through the park roller coasters.

I went on a couple of rides with kids who asked me to. Neither are kids I'm particularly close with, just kids who happened to be in line at the same time as me, but it was fun to sit by them and chat and stuff.

(Side note: after, I got guilt-tripped by other kids who I AM really close with for not going on rides with THEM. "You didn't ask me," I said, reasonably, I thought. "You didn't ask US!" they cried. "I didn't want you to feel like you had to hang out with a teacher if you didn't want to," I said. " should've still asked us....." they whined. "....Okay. Next time," I said. Which, there won't BE a next time, but that still seemed to placate them. Ah, teenage inconsistencies.)

So a fabulous, fabulous day. Until the very end. When two of our 140 did not come back to the buses (they are the 1.4% not awesome). Both of the two had been directly told by teachers (one by me!), "Now is the time you need to head toward the bus." And....nothin'.

We waited for a while, tried to get in touch with them, but no luck, so we took our 138 responsible kids back to school and called ahead to let the building know that they'd skipped out. One finally went home at 7:30; the other, not till after 10, after all district administrators and higher ups had been notified that a kid was missing, after the police had been called. Not good.

I'm not sure what's going to happen to them. The AP was so mad that she wanted to take the weekend to think about what to do. We did do one thing, though; we pulled both girls into a room during their first elective and all the teachers went in to talk to them about it.

We took whatever perspective we wanted. One teacher talked about how they'd endangered all of our jobs by doing this; another talked about what the consequences are in the military (he's former Air Force) when people miss troop deployments (execution, turns out, or at least it can be); another talked about how her sister had done this when she was in high school and how scared her family was while she was missing.

I talked about a couple of things (because it's me, and I'm chatty!). I talked about how anything could have happened to them and how scary that is for people who care about them, how I'd just met one of them for the first time that day but now did not have a particularly good view of her and that view had been spread to the entire district since she stayed out so late, how this trip might not exist going forward and that there were 500 6th and 7th graders in the building who might not get to go now.

But mostly I talked about how they had to decide what kinds of people they wanted to be. I told them that in high school, nobody would hold their hand and walk them through things, that they had to choose if they wanted to be someone who did whatever they wanted with no regard for anyone else, or if they wanted to be the kinds of people that they could be.

A few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker come and talk to the kids about not making excuses, about having goals, about taking responsibility. He was amazing and the kids really responded to him. I asked these girls if they'd been there for that. They nodded, and I said they needed to remember his message and choose what direction they wanted to go in life.

I didn't figure it was too meaningful to them; I don't know either of these girls at all. But the next period, one of them (the 7:30 returnee) came and apologized to me.

She said she knew it didn't change anything, but she wanted me to know that it wasn't that she hadn't been thinking about anyone else, it was that things aren't very good at home and she just.....hadn't been ready to go home yet, and she was so sorry that she'd done it. She sat on my couch, slumped over, looking so defeated and sad.

I looked at her. "Actually, to me, it does change things. I think if you're apologizing on your own, then that shows something, and I respect that. So.....thank you."

She smiled a little at that, and we talked a little longer. I told her how sorry I was that things were that bad at home, and that I hoped she could find someone to talk to about it. And I shared the line about mistakes that I shared with Bump It a while back. I've shared that with several kids recently; they seem to respond to it pretty well. A few of them have even actually changed the behaviors that triggered those conversations.

When we finished, I walked her down to another teacher she wanted to apologize to so that she didn't have to go in on her own. The whole thing left me feeling much better about the situation, and much more prepared to fight for the future of this field trip.

Because 98.6% awesome is worth it.

(Image credit to
auggie tolosa)


Sarah Garb said...

I love those times as a teacher when you can hang out and have fun and chat with kids on a roller coaster or at field day or something like that :) And you're right--apologizing on one's own does make a big difference! So glad to hear that.

Chris Osborne said...

Sounds like a great day. I wish I could luck into something like that as a sub.

teachin' said...

We need more times like this - it's so great for the relationship building!

Ms. Cookie said...

I'm so glad I stumbled across this blog and this particular entry. I really love the idea of the teachers getting together and facing the students and from their perspective saying why what they did hurt the teachers in some way. This seems more powerful than, "bad student!". I also love your letter writing and explaining that "you are not your mistakes". I have to keep being reminded of that for myself AND for my students. Anyway: thank you, thank you, thank you.

Ms. Cookie

teachin' said...

Thanks, Ms. Cookie; I'm having a not very good day so I really, really appreciate that. (I would anyway, but today especially!)

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
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