Throughout the years we have had the pleasure of working with many different teachers and groups, and have learned quite a bit about effective group management. Your Academic Expeditions Tour Leader will lead the overall flow and logistics of your trip, but the responsibility of student management in the areas of counting, discipline, and specific group expectations remains in the hands of teachers and chaperones. Here are some tips and things to consider:
Parents or No Parents?
We have seen the full spectrum, from groups that bring just as many parents as students and the trip has more of a “family” feel, to groups where parents were not allowed to come at all and the teachers have more direct control over the students. From these examples, we’ve seen variable results from both sides. Whether you’re dealing with students or parents you communicate clear expectations for behavior, organization and promptness.
There are logistical considerations that the number of adults can impact. Certain sites, such as Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Mount Vernon require that students are accompanied by an adult chaperone. In this situation, the more adults you have allows you to break into smaller groups for more personalized touring. While Williamsburg and DC have sites that are contained in safer, easy-to-navigate corridors where trusted students can explore in buddy groups without adults, it is not advisable to let students do so in New York City without adult supervision. For Williamsburg, DC, or Philadelphia, we recommend an adult/student ratio of 1 to 10 or less, and for New York or Boston, we recommend 1 to 5 or less.
In addition to their help with group organization and discipline, parents can really help personalize the educational experience. History, after all, is the story of succeeding generations – what better way to experience the continuity of history at a memorial or site than with a parent and child together? Parents are much more wired to take the emotional power of the trip to heart, and they can be examples to help their children do the same. If your school already has an established record of parental involvement and investment in their students’ education, then their participation can be a great resource on your trip. However, be aware that adults have often forgotten what it’s like to be part of a disciplined group on a schedule, so they will need coaching on orderliness and chaperone responsibilities.
It is essential to have a reliable counting system in order to know that the whole group is present before moving to the next site. Our recommended method is assigning travelers to chaperone groups or smaller teams that must report when their group is all present. This is not only handy for counting, but also for touring some sites which require groups to be broken into chaperone groups. It also encourages the chaperones to be part of the counting system.
Promptness on the part of the entire group will make your itinerary flow logically and efficiently. Arriving late may cost the rest of the group their time at subsequent sites, but may also cause the group to miss a timed appointment.
Cell Phones and Headphones
It’s valuable to consider guidelines for cellphone usage while on a trip, and to inform your Program Direct and Tour Leader of this in advance. Each school has their own system – some set no restrictions on phone and headphone use and even print out a list of everyone’s cell number, while others have completely banned them from the trip. Whatever the case, clear expectations and consequences should be established to ensure talking, texting, tuning-out, and gaming are not done by students or adults during touring and teaching times. If you decide to completely disallow phones while touring, know that our 24 hour toll-free number which is on the back of each participant’s name tag is always staffed by someone familiar with the group and can facilitate with the guide in finding lost people and dealing with surprises. Also keep in mind that phones and gadgets make going through metal detector security slower.
Touring on the Bus
While seating assignments are not necessary, it is recommended that chaperones are interspersed throughout the bus, including the back. Be aware that the bus company and driver typically have their own standards of what is allowed on the bus. As a general rule, drivers do not allow gum, ice cream, or open top drinks such as coffee or fountain drinks (screw top bottles are generally acceptable). Whatever the standard, the most important thing is that travelers respect the bus and clean up after themselves. If your group is large enough that you are traveling on more than one bus, then you will have a guide on each of your buses. It is not recommended that you let students or parents switch from one bus to another multiple times during the trip, as it is difficult for your guide to maintain informational continuity when their audience is always changing. Switching buses also makes head counts very difficult when going from site to site. If you have a multi-city itinerary, then you will have some longer drives with down time on the bus. Likely, your guide will have DVDs or CDs to play on the bus, but you might want to bring some of your own if you have some specific films or music that will complement the trip.
Touring on Foot
Grab your best sneakers and get ready to walk! Often we tour by foot, so please prepare your students to dress comfortably, and be ready with comfy shoes, a water bottle, and maybe even a raincoat – location depending.
While there are no specific dress codes that are required at any of the sites we visit, it is always a good idea to set your own standards of appropriateness for certain occasions.
Proper behavior from both students and parents is an essential part of a smooth trip. While our guides and staff will help to encourage appropriate conduct, ultimately this responsibility falls on the teachers and chaperones of your school. As such, Academic Expeditions does not require or mandate a behavioral contract, but we do recommend that you establish your own prior to your trip in order to communicate clear expectations and consequences to your students and their parents. We have included our Behavioral Contract that you may print and use as a guide when creating your own.