To Chaperone, or Not to Chaperone

My daughter’s First Grade class is learning about the neighborhood we live in via short field trips to local businesses and public spaces. Each of these excursions requires several chaperones. A 1:3 grown up to kid ratio, in fact. So my husband and I signed up: He got a scavenger hunt in the park; I got the tour of a bagel factory. I win.

(Did you know there are only five ingredients in a bagel, and one of them is brown sugar? Like we needed another reason to love bagels.)

Chaperoning a field trip can be a bit like substitute teaching – only you’re subbing for other parents. And as a substitute parent, you’re paralyzed with fear that you may lose, laugh at, or need to (gently) shake a child who’s not your own. Kids know that your at-home grown-up rules don’t apply…so it’s a delicate balance of maintaining order without injecting parental authority. Parent-like tones could potentially drive them to stage a coup-like nametag swap. Which could, for example, cause mad confusion, resulting in Sebastian inexplicably eating Ryan’s snack…while Allison walks home in the rain as Layla sashays beneath her “new” umbrella. I’m just saying…unexpected nametag confusion could trigger something like that to happen.

There are only a few rules to chaperoning that most parents should follow.

  • PLEASE SHOW UP. This one comes directly from my kid’s teacher. Last-minute no shows of chaperones can at best cause concern for teachers who need to ensure children are properly accompanied. And it can at worst mean the trip gets cancelled. So if you sign up…show up. Preferably on time.
  • STASH THE DEVICES. I watched in horror as one of the other chaperones let go of the little hand she was holding while crossing the street so that she could check a message on her phone. That could have been your six-year-old child in the middle of that busy intersection. If you can’t disconnect for the necessary time to ensure the safety of your own child and those you’re responsible for…then don’t sign up.
  • RESIST THE URGE TO SPOIL YOUR CHILD IN FRONT OF THE MASSES. I’ve accompanied classes of kids to museums, monuments, libraries and now, a bagelry. And on this my most recent excursion, I saw a parent buy her own child a chocolate milk while the rest of the class “enjoyed” their complimentary orange juice or water. Wanna’ guess what happened? Chocolate-milk-nagfest Pandemonium. Either ask the teacher before over-indulging your child…or learn the art of NO.

The rest of the rules really just fall under the “be a grown up” category. Always remember that you’re not there as a friend to the kids…but as a guide, a guardrail. Also remember that when you signed up, you agreed to take some responsibility for someone else’s kids…and for the school. So keep your head in the game.

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