Elaine V Arredondo
Texas Middle School Teacher
On one of the longest days I’d ever worked- a BOLD statement for a teacher, the sun was setting across NYC. I was standing at the top of the Empire State Building on the ultimate field trip with some of my 8th grade students. When I think about field trips, the first thing that comes to mind: Permission Slips. A single sheet of paper becomes a key to a whole new relationship with learning. When you watch student light bulbs go off as you see places they learned about in a classroom, you learn just how vital it can be to learning. Students’ experiences with education are changed when we take their learning outside of the classroom, and there are few important pieces to ensuring that you get them returned without a hitch!
1. The BASICS
I’ve always found the same format for field trip forms to make life easier. Start with the date you plan to send the letter out. This is helpful when you set deadlines. Bold the due date and make no exceptions unless absolutely necessary. I mainly work in secondary so weekly and daily reminders alongside the use of apps like Remind and Class Dojo, make keeping those hard date headlines easier.
Along with including important dates make sure to use the same language you’d use if you were sending a professional letter or email. If you have the time, label each parent or guardian with their names. This is helpful when building rapport with families. We know it’s hard to make those phone calls and to check in regularly when you have over 100 students. Parents will remember the documents you send home. If you have a lot of students, have them do their own. When you can’t add names- a general greeting is always a perfect way to be formal enough that your letter is memorable but also concise. Nobody like 2 page permission slips. (BTW – all this is made easier using Mobile Permissions which does a lot of this for you. Nudge nudge.)
2. The Teacher in Charge
This goes without saying, but there needs to AT LEAST one point of contact. Usually, it is the teacher who planned the field trip, but in the event that you are like my current school with over 120 students per grade level, then you definitely wanna delegate to your team. On my most recent field trip, we each handled our homeroom and then met with the teacher in charge to make sure we got every student taken care of. Either way parents need someone to contact for questions.
3. Details: The 5 W’s
As a writing teacher I love words! But I have also learned that TOO many words get confusing for parents and students so I use the 5 w’s to let parents know what is going on.
- WHO: Who is this field trip for? Who is going on this trip? Make sure to list out what students and what teachers.
- WHAT: What is happening on this field trip? What time are you leaving, lunch details, cost (if any), spending money, ETA for returning to school etc. – these details are VITAL to make sure everyone has a great experience and that everything runs smoothly
- WHEN: Make sure to include the exact day of the week and the date of the trip. It makes adding it to calendars easier
- WHERE: Location, Location, LOCATION! Make sure to put exactly where you are going. If you are walking to lunch, include that and the route if you can. From my experience, if it isn’t on the permission slip you CANNOT go with any students.
- WHY: I find that this is helpful when planning at schools who require you to align your field trips to standards. Sometimes you have to get creative when completing this task but both parents and students get excited when you share and they make the connections to the things they do in class
4. And How
Parents need to know how students are being transported. Are you taking a school bus? City Transportation? Charter bus? I have planned and been a chaperone on trips where we utilized two or more transportation methods. We had to make sure to include that. In the event that you need a fee paid for transportation, make sure to let parents know what they’re fee is going to help with that cost.
I am a firm believer in itineraries. You’ll need to do this anyways when coordinating your field trip, so including the schedule of events in your permission slips helps to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. BONUS: you can copy and paste this from the one you share with your team!
6. Language Barriers
Living in South Texas we have a melting pot of cultures. It’s important that we meet our parents and students where they are at. Having copies in a parent/student’s native language makes the field trip more accessible. A language barrier DOES NOT mean that students and their families are not invested. I have had students and fellow teachers help when the language is something I am not familiar with. I’ve used translation tools and student feedback to make sure that all points are articulated in a way that parents will understand. Student leaders are a GREAT help when you have 3 or more languages in a single room.
Two extra things that my team loves to do is post the pdf of the form on Remind, Google Classroom, or Class Dojo, as well as send out the pdf via email. Let’s be real- students lose EVERYTHING. Having a digital copy readily available keeps things organized and will make your life a little easier. (Something Mobile Permissions excels at, I’m just saying.)
The beauty of creating your own permission slips for field trips is that it allows you to make sure that all rhetoric you send out is something you feel proud of and allows for nothing to get missed. As the pandemic ended I transitioned to a new campus where permission slips were THREE PAGES LONG and covered more about liability for the district than logistics for parents. This meant alot or parent texts and phone calls that could have been answered with a one page document. If you need a starting point, click on this template and make a copy!
Happy Field Tripping!
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