I've been fortunate to have been able to accompany my kids' field trips as a chaperone for the last couple of years. Their school needed volunteers and I had the spare time to do it.
(picture of Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach)
Requirements to Become a Chaperone at an Elementary School
Before I was able to chaperone on a field trip, I had to get fingerprinted and pass a background check for my sons' elementary school. They also needed me to pass a tuberculosis (TB) test. For the background check, I only had to do it once and not every year for the school. It costed me $75 for this and I had to go to the district's office to complete my fingerprinting process. I think you can pick from a list of offices but it made more sense to me to just get it done at one of the school's district offices. For the TB test, I had to get more periodic check-ups. Once I passed the initial one, however, I just have to make sure I get a quick interview for the subsequent school years. I found out later that I could have saved myself some money and tried to ask the school nurse to do the initial TB test on me. You'll have to check with your kid's school and district to see if they offer this service to you. I went to a Nurse Practitioner to get my TB done at Dignity Health a few years back. I hadn't met my deductible yet for my insurance then, so I had to pay a couple of hundred dollars for this.
During the pandemic, the extra requirement was to show proof that you're fully vaccinated for Covid-19 and/or have a negative Covid-19 test.
Pros and Cons for Being a Chaperone
I got to see my kid's interactions with other kids and who their friends are. This was comforting to me to see my kids' social life in a class setting.
My kids have food allergies so being there as a chaperone on the field trips, and carrying the epinephrine shots with me gave me peace of mind and the means to be able to help them in an event that there is an incident.
I got to experience new places that I wouldn't have been able to see otherwise. For instance, the KSBY News Station is a very secured place and they are very choosy on who they allow on site for tours. (See a list of field trips that I've chaperoned for towards the bottom of this post.) Therefore, for a school group and educational purposes, they were willing to let the kids, teachers and their chaperones go on their tour. I would have never been able to experience this if I had not chaperoned.
Another wonderful thing about being a chaperone for a school field trip is I feel more connected to the community as I get to help out and keep the kids safe. Without enough volunteers/chaperones on field trips, kids would not be able to go on field trips. There have been instances where other classes couldn't go on field trips because there weren't enough volunteers. As a matter of fact, the teacher for my kid's kindergarten class told me that if I had not been able to volunteer and chaperone, the kids would not have been able to go on any field trips that year. There is a requirement and specific ratio for kids per adult that the teacher, school and district have to meet in order to get permission to go on field trips.
A connection with another mom is something I find rare for myself. So another positive thing for me from chaperoning is that I was able to find a connection with a couple of moms. Friendships can take time to form but when I was able to spend all day with them twice on two different field trips within a span of a few months, this gave chaperones an opportunity to talk to each other as we all had the same goals during the field trip and that is to keep the kids safe and to help give them a positive learning experience. Therefore, we instantaneously had something to talk about and worked together on. Of course, it's hard to bond with everyone so just being able to connect with one or two moms from volunteering is pretty awesome in my book.
I got to get to know my kids' teachers better each time that I've chaperoned and volunteered on a field trip. Being able to spend hours together consecutively helped me understand the teachers' personalities and made it more comfortable for me to communicate with them for the rest of the school year as questions and concerns arise. In return, the teachers also got to know me as their students' parents on a more personal level.
Chaperoning for a kindergarten class was the toughest among all the field trips I've chaperoned for! The kindergarteners had so much energy and a few of them were not very good at listening yet, so I had to chase them around and help keep them in line. Fortunately, my son was not one of the wanderers, but I didn't get to spend as much time with my son as I had hoped. Great stamina is definitely required while you're chaperoning for a kinder class.
There has been a couple of times where I was so exhausted from chaperoning that my body ached when I got home afterwards! There's a lot of walking and worrying about the safety of your kids and other kids in the classroom. One time, I had to help a stuck boy from the playground because he climbed on top of the structure (which was not how it was meant to be played), so I had to do some agile climbing and then lift the 50 pound kid down with one arm while hanging on to the bar with my other arm. The responsibility and the fear of losing any child during a field trip can be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, we haven't lost a kid yet.
You might have to reprimand kids who are misbehaving. I really don't like to do this to kids who are not my offsprings. I usually like to leave the chiding to their own parents but in a school function when there are only a couple of adults, as a chaperone, you'll have to nudge them towards better behavior so that they are not being rude to the tour guides or others around them. I have a soft voice, so exerting a stern voice required a lot of effort for my introvert self. Most of the time my talks are to ask them to lower their voices or keep their hands and feet to themselves if they are horsing around. Other times, it's to get the wanderers back with our class group and telling them to stay with the group so that they don't get lost.
If you are used to a routine and an organized timeline, being a chaperone for a field trip can possibly throw you off. You'll need to be able to get used to not having all of the information until the day of. For example, if you'd like to know which exact kids you'd be responsible for, days ahead, more likely than not, the teacher will not be able to provide a list for you until the very morning of the field trip. Teachers are very busy individuals and sometimes the head count can change if they don't get all of the permission slips in or if someone is sick. Be ready to expect the unexpected.
Alternatively, if you don't have a connection with any of the other moms at the field trips and some of their personalities annoy you, being around them requires tolerance. Not all chaperones are rule-followers because the background checks don't check for certain personalities. They just provide information about recorded crimes or negative background records to the school with your social security number. So if you have any of those negative things in your record, then you don't pass the background check and can't volunteer to help the kids, especially if you're a registered sex offender!
Ultimately, we're chaperoning to help the kids and when I'm being surrounded by a bigger group of kids, there is this extra pressure to strive to be cordial to everyone, not cause trouble, and lead by example. I’ll share something that happened in the past. A hard rule while you're on a school bus is: no eating or drinking on the bus. One mom decided to bring her Starbucks drink on the bus and it spilled all over the school bus floor. Not only that, I heard her cuss around the kids as a reaction from her accidental spill. I kept mum about it and pretended to not see to avoid embarrassing her or draw attention to her, and I definitely couldn't help her clean the mess because I had no napkins in hand.
Things I Would Bring as a Chaperone
For the majority of the field trips, we would have lunch while we're out on the trip before returning to our school buses, so I had to bring my own lunch, which is usually a sandwich. I packed light and exchanged my everyday purse for a compact backpack so that I could fit my lunch, wallet, phone and band aids! Band aids have come to the rescue for me a couple of times when kids accidentally trip.
Usually the teacher has some supplies too but when we split up into small groups, having your own supply can be life savers for meltdowns. Once, I also packed fruit snacks enough for my small group and an 8-pack of apple juice boxes for the zoo. I checked with the teacher ahead of time for any allergies in the class first before I did this. I knew it was going to be a hot day and I looked like a saint to have come with a small cooler with those snacks and cold drinks when we took a couple of breaks during our sweaty walk together during the field trip. So for that particular field trip, I carried my backpack and had a very compact cooler that kind of looked like a purse as well with me. Another thing that has saved me and kept the kids on their best behavior was having a pack of stickers. In past field trips, I would reward the kindergarteners a sticker as an incentive for good behavior, if they were assigned to my group. I think that has helped me keep the kids together and listen to me better.
My sons are not near graduating elementary school yet, so I have a few more years and opportunities to volunteer as a chaperone while they are still smaller kids. However, I always ask them every time if they prefer that I chaperone on their upcoming field trip or stay home as I want them to know that they have the option to feel independent on a field trip without mama around. Thus far, they have always been excited when I'd tell them that their teachers asked me to chaperone and encouraged me to go so that I can spend the day with them! I know that there is a possibility that one day, they will tell me that they can go to a field trip without me, or when I have a job that will not allow me to chaperone anymore. When either of that happens, then I will have to sit out and accept my fate. Until then, I'm going to enjoy being a chaperone as much as I can!
Here is a list of field trip locations that I've been a chaperone for below:
- Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero for a kindergarten class field trip
- Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach for a kindergarten class field trip
- Museum of Natural History in Morro Bay for a field trip
- KSBY News Station Tour in San Luis Obispo for a class field trip
- Halcyon Farms Tour in Arroyo Grande for a field trip in Spring
Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach is one of Central Coast's top places to visit in our county and I got to chaperone the kids there while they learned from the park rangers.
To see fun things to do with kids in San Luis Obispo County, go to the 'For Kids' blog entries or go to the Kid-Friendly Events Page to see a list of upcoming free events.
Did you enjoy my Pros and Cons list from this blog entry? You can read my Pros and Cons list that I created for the Mother & Son Dance.
In : Mom Life
Tags: tips for being a chaperone chaperone for field trip chaperone experience what to do as a chaperone for elementary school school volunteer for field trips