Yesterday, even though I didn't get a stitch of work done during my normal "office hours", I spent my day in what I consider to be a very productive fashion — I was a chaperon on my 13 year old son's school field trip.
After originally signing up to attend the field trip as a parent volunteer, I began to have second thoughts. The itinerary was ambitious. We were to gather at school early to attend 8:00 mass for All Saints Day and then embark on the trip. Our destination was the Sierra Endangered Cat Haven, an innovative park dedicated to the preservation of wild cats (think panthers and leopards, not calicoes and tabbies). Since my son attends a private school, most of our field trips involve parent drivers, as we do not have school buses. So signing on for this trip meant playing "bus driver" for a load of thirteen-year-old young men. Our normal trips are within the city limits, but this trip involved an hour-long drive up a windy road into the foothills. When some of the other mom/drivers started discussing the need to bring ginger ale, anti carsickness medication and plastic bags (just in case…), I began to have feelings of trepidation. But my son's excitement about the planned trip strengthened my resolve to "get over it" and have a good attitude about the day.
I am so glad I attended this particular field trip. The day was beautiful, with sunny skies and perfect temperatures. My charges were angelic during the drive — thanks to my car's on-board DVD player and a good movie. I learned so much about the topic and had a wonderful day with my child.
The great experience left me pondering the benefits of taking time out from our work schedules to volunteer for these types of school events. Fortunately, since I work from home and am my own boss, I could rearrange my schedule to make time for this field trip. Others may not be so fortunate, but there are also many parents who simply avoid being a chaperon at all costs. For that reason, I want to share with you some of the reasons you should consider volunteering your time to go on a field trip:
- You will learn something new. I'm far from being a zoologist, but I now finally understand the difference between a panther, a cheetah and a leopard. On other field trips, I've toured the California missions, watched whales, seen plays, and toured museums. I've learned along with my children and experienced the joy of visiting new places with them.
- You will have an opportunity to get to know your child's teacher. School field trips afford interested parents an excellent chance to spend "quality time" with the person who spends so many waking hours with our children — their teacher. Away from the classroom and with a more relaxed environment, you can learn a great deal about how your child is interacting with his teacher and peers in the classroom. Seeing and spending time with a teacher outside the walls of a classroom offers you an excellent insight into his or her personality. Additionally, when you volunteer your time to go on a field trip your teacher receives the message that you are interested in and prioritize your child's education.
- You can network with other families. One of the most beneficial aspects of attending field trips for me is getting to know the other parents and students on the trip. These are my child's peers — the people who will host him for parties and social events now and in the future. Meeting and speaking with other parents helps give me an insight into how they parent and supervise children. This has been a helpful background to have as my 16 year old son begins to embark on an active social life: I want to know where he will be and with whom. I have met and spent a great deal of time with many of his friends' parents and the kids themselves, often on field trips. I know in whom I can place my trust, and around whom I need to be wary — that makes my job as mom a little easier.
- You will make precious memories with your child. This, in and of itself, is the major reason for setting aside work for a few hours and enjoying a field trip with your child. You may not make any money, but the memories of a great day together are precious. As my children march towards maturity, I increasingly look for opportunities to "hang out" with them. I've learned that there aren't any "field trips" in high school, so I intend to capitalize on my chances to share time with Adam and his classmates while I still can. Work can wait, but childhood won't.
So next time you receive that permission slip home from school, asking for you to consider volunteering to chaperon a field trip, think twice before you say no. Sure, you may miss out on a meeting or two, but the things you'll learn, the people you'll meet, and the message of love you'll send to your child are a pretty productive use of your time.