Field trip behavior is always an issue for high school students. You are taking the students outside of your classroom and school where the less-than-well-behaved have many opportunities for mischief. That is why a teacher needs to make clear in the strongest terms the expectations for the students’ field trip behavior. I use the carrot and stick method explaining to the students, in no uncertain terms, how we can have a fun and educational experience or I will make your life miserable if you are out of line. My students know me, and know I will back it up.
A second tactic to handle field trip behavior is to have several parents volunteer to chaperone. The students will be dispersed, so the more adult eyes present the better. It is always a good idea to bring parents onboard not just with field trips, but also with classroom teachers. I discovered this teaching English in rural Nevada where the students were 2 years behind academically. I would teach a basic English concept and most needed help to complete a simple task.
Bringing in parent volunteers for a field trip or in class assistance to help answer student questions is a win-win. Having parent volunteers for positive results was successful on both counts. With this experience, I went on a field trip as a Fulbright teacher from America to Estonia for the 1993-1994 school year. It was literally the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Estonian students were the good being completely well behaved, polite, and nice as normal. The fly in the ointment was having visiting American students from Indiana visit with their teachers. As the top and first English language school in Estonia, they hosted for one week an American group of students and their teachers. I had been teaching for 6 weeks by October of 1993 when they arrived. I was shocked at the behavior of the American students, their teachers not controlling it, and the complete ignorance of said American teachers about the country they were visiting.
There was a general assembly to welcome the American delegation where I saw the “ugly” of complete ignorance from the fellow American teachers addressing the school. They brought oranges and bananas as if Estonia was the most backward nation. They also brought a computer thinking this was the greatest gift in the world. They had no idea that the computer lab upstairs had far more advanced computers.
Honestly, I just watched in silence seeing them as truly ignorant. Then it got better with a teachers’ meeting with the American delegation. We truly needed real English curriculum materials. Instead, they brought STD pamphlets. Estonians are more polite than I am; they listened in silence to the Indiana teacher’s nonsense. I had enough and challenged them on their lack of knowledge, preparation, and not knowing the real needs of education in Estonia or this school. I know the Estonian teachers were thinking the same thing, but they were too polite to say it.
When I openly confronted the American teachers about their lack of preparation or knowledge of the academic needs for the school other than the junk they brought, I saw the Estonian teachers trying to hide their laughing. These American teachers from Indiana complimented me on how good my English was rather than actually answer the question. That’s when one of the polite, silent, Estonian teachers chimed in and explained to them I too was American.
There was a long silence after that, so I followed up with the real material needs of this elite Estonian English specialty high school. I eventually got a weak, “we did not know” from them and left it at that. Next was our field trip to show these American teachers and their students Estonia. The trip and destinations the Estonian staff chose were great. 28 years later, I still remember it like it was yesterday.
We got up early to meet and catch a leased, private bus to northeast Estonia several hours away to Pühtitsa Convent and the city of Narva on the Estonian-Russian border. Estonia is mostly Lutheran, but the Russian minority is Russian Orthodox. The Pühtitsa Convent is a Russian Orthodox nunnery whose members are 8 to 80. The minor members are given a choice at the age of 18 to join for life or leave.
The nunnery dates from the 16th century with exquisite buildings and grounds. We were in awe viewing their intricate, huge stacks of wood piled with great care and intricacy leaving one wondering how did they do that. I focused on this great experience and opportunity while ignoring the crude and rude behavior of the American students on this trip as guests of this Estonian school. I bit my tongue watching not just the American students act like idiots, but their teachers from the U.S. ignoring it and doing nothing.
The Estonian teachers were too polite to say or do anything, but I felt like the students’ behavior was embarrassing for my country. These American high school students are not my charge, and I am only a guest teacher for the Estonian school. I took a middle ground, compromise reaction to reign in these true ugly American students. As the students acted inappropriately, I walked the aisle of the bus staring at them. True, I was using intimidating tactics. It was effective and worked. The students’ field trip behavior improved, and I only had to stand up for them to stop saying or doing something stupid while their teachers did nothing.
After seeing the amazing sight of the Russian Orthodox nunnery, we went to Narva. The city has an interesting history being on the Estonian-Russian border. The Narva River divides the two politically and culturally. The entire city was destroyed in WW II, rebuilt, and colonized by Russians with the U.S.S.R. not allowing Estonians to move back in to it.
That is why over 90% of the residents of Narva are Russians. It is the epitome of a dinghy, old Soviet city. It is worth seeing though because the Teutonic castle was rebuilt and is a museum. As you tour the castle, you only have to look across the river to see Russia with a bridge to cross into Ivangorod.
That’s when I met Lenin, his statue at least. This is the fall of 1993, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had toppled and trashed their Lenin statues. Narva still had one and moved it to the back by the castle. I did a rather disrespectful hand gesture to the statue with a picture telling him, “You lose,” and moved on. It was a great field trip, one I will always remember. The American students behaved, despite their weak teachers, because I gave them dirty looks when they did. There was a big party for them at the end of their stay, and I was happy to say good-bye.
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