Chaperones play a critical role in the smooth operation of a school trip and are an asset for ensuring student safety. However, parents, teachers, and school staff all volunteer to chaperone with different expectations of what the role entails. Responsibilities and duties must be clearly communicated for chaperones to be effective on a school trip.
What are these responsibilities? What makes for the best team of chaperones?
Chaperones are carefully selected.
- If teachers will not be chaperoning, does your school require additional clearances for parents?
- Consider your hotel room arrangements. Do the genders of your chaperones accommodate the occupancy (quad, triple, double) of your trip agreement?
- Can you trust this chaperone? Are they attending the trip for the right reasons?
If the genders of your chaperones do not accommodate the occupancy of your agreement, a paid supplement may be required. Plan ahead if clearances are needed. These can often take weeks or months to process.
Chaperones understand their roles and duties before the trip.
- Hold a meeting before the trip to communicate expectations.
- Assign specific duties to each chaperone.
Chaperones are often very eager to help, but they need to be pointed in the right direction. Your trip will run much smoother if specific duties are communicated early and often. Otherwise, chaperones may be along “for the ride” and add further chaos and confusion during the trip.
Chaperones get to know their destination ahead of time.
- Provide chaperones with destination maps, either in hard-copy or by sending a link via email.
- If there are special procedures for a destination site (such as security), provide chaperones with the appropriate information.
- Provide chaperones with an extra copy of the itinerary.
If it is a chaperone’s first visit to your destination, maps and other informative materials can relieve initial anxiety and tension. The more familiar your team is with the sites and regulations, the more helpful they will be on the trip. Hard copies of materials are more likely to be reviewed during the bus ride to your destination.
Chaperones are connected by phone and group messages.
- Create a list of chaperone cell phone numbers for each bus.
- Distribute the phone list to each chaperone to program in their phones.
- Create a chaperone group text message list to send meeting time reminders or use Remind to send for free.
Keeping communication open and easy between the chaperones on your bus will increase the efficiency of your trip. If you are in a crowded or noisy place and the bus leader cannot hear their phone ring, chaperones will be able to contact another chaperone. If a chaperone is running late to a meeting location, multiple options exist to contact. Bus leaders with a chaperone group message service in place can send easy reminders or change of plan notifications. Each of these communication measures can save valuable time on a trip.
Chaperones are assigned to a specific set of students.
- Assign a specific group of students to each chaperone.
- All students in this group should be on the same bus as the chaperone.
- Assign students by hotel room. One to three hotel rooms (4-12 students) is a manageable number of students per chaperone.
- Clearly communicate that chaperones will be in charge of these students at the hotel, on the bus, and while visiting your destination.
- Organize your chaperone groups using this roster.
Chaperone groups make the trip easier to manage. Instead of all chaperones trying to supervise all students at the same time, chaperones have a defined subset of students to monitor.
Chaperone groups make moving between sites a fast and easy process. When it is time to move, students quickly find their assigned chaperone. If a student isn’t present, the assigned chaperone knows immediately who is absent. This save dramatic amounts of time compared to counting students in one large group or lining up students to count.
Chaperones are strategically placed on the motor coach.
- The Bus Leader should be seated in the front seat of the bus.
- Chaperones should be evenly distributed throughout the bus to supervise students.
- Seat chaperones near their assigned group of students.
- Assign one chaperone to do the overall bus head count every time the bus is loaded. See how this saves time.
An even distribution of chaperones throughout the bus ensures that students are well-supervised. Head counts are expedited if students are seated near their assigned chaperones. Chaperones will easily recognize if any of their assigned students are absent. This can save dramatic amounts of time (not to mention headaches!) during a trip.
Chaperones are strategically placed while touring.
- Chaperones should be spaced at the front, middle, and back when the group is walking between sites.
- Chaperones should prevent line gaps from forming by encouraging students to keep pace.
Spacing chaperones throughout the group ensures that students are both well-supervised and keeping up with the pace of the group. Often, several students will walk slowly at the back of the line or in the middle. This slows the entire group down and causes the tour leader to wait to give commentary or check the group in at a site. Large line gaps may also be crossed by other tour groups or tourists, causing the group to split. When repeated often, this can cause the group to lose precious tour time.
Chaperones have specific duties at hotel check-in.
- Assign a chaperone to coordinate luggage unloading from the bus.
- Assign a chaperone to stand near the stairwell or elevator as students enter to direct students and encourage quiet.
- Assign a chaperone to be stationed in the hotel hallway to direct students to their rooms and encourage quiet.
- Assign a chaperone to distribute room keys to students.
Having a defined hotel check-in plan will minimize chaos for both students and chaperones. Placing chaperones throughout the hotel will make check-in an efficient process. Encouraging students to remain quiet will communicate respect to other hotel guests.
Chaperones are in charge of wake-up calls and breakfast.
- Arrange a group wake-up call with the hotel.
- Have chaperones follow-up with a knock on the door for their assigned students.
- Have chaperones confirm that their assigned students had breakfast.
Students often need more than one wake-up call. You can divide and conquer the wake-up calls by assigning students to chaperones by hotel room. This gives you, the group leader, more time in the morning without overburdening the chaperones.
Communicating clear roles and responsibilities to chaperones will ensure that they are informed and ready to be of assistance during the trip. This will greatly improve trip organization, save precious time, and make for an overall more enjoyable experience.
Now, over to you. What did we leave out? What else do you do to organize your chaperones?
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