I see posters in the building for teachers taking trips with students. A fellow teacher is leaving for a Spring Break trip to Italy. He has taken trips to many other places. A Social Studies teacher in our building is always good for a trip to the Presidential Inauguration every four years. Our student Leadership students have truly traveled from sea to shining sea over the years. And, of course, there is the inevitable World Language trips to France, and Spanish speaking countries. Our Theatre Department is always planning some trip to London or New York to see productions on Broadway or to the West End. I think back over the years to the fact that I have traveled to Germany, (4 Times), Disneyland Leadership training, Hawaii, and several Washington D.C. trips. The question comes up about the value of these trips or are they just “sponsored vacations” for the students and teachers. Can anyone justify the time, expense, & fundraising for these trips? Upon many years of reflection I believe that we are asking the wrong question. Can we afford to NOT give these opportunities to students?
The above picture of the Brandenburg Gate that we took in 2015 is a highlight of our German trips. Walking through historic Berlin or ascending the tower at the Strasbourg Cathedral in France gives an experience that can’t be replicated any other way. I have created and used VR pictures to give the feelings of being in a special place but nothing compares to breathing the air and hearing the sounds during these trips. I can’t put the smell of a French bakery on my VR picture and even if I could it would still be lacking. Teachers should continue to show these VR experiences but there should be an additional reliance on visiting the actual sites.
The most important part of these trips is passion. Passion by the teacher for the programs involved. I remember being asked about the German exchange and had a chance to go in 2009 and I enjoyed the idea but I didn’t catch the passion until I was on the trip. I am now looking at my 5th trip and have a very heavy heart because it will be my last. I am turning the program over to younger teachers and making sure the program continues past my tenure. I am thankful to Patrice who hooked me and spent the first few trips showing me things in the Black Forest. Now I am the tour guide and have added Berlin to our itinerary. The trips are a mixture of cultural exchange, sight-seeing, and vacation. I have students from many exchanges previous continue to rave about the experience.
The school that we connect with becomes a second home for our students and especially me. When I return I always feel like a member of the faculty and our students have a great time in classes and at the Heimschule Lender. I can’t imagine not having this experience for our students and I speak as a parent when I say it was an amazing experience for my own daughter. We still keep in touch with our two students that stayed with us when my daughter participated. I was lucky enough to return to Germany the years that they graduated and attend the ceremonies.
The travel piece isn’t this in-depth for every program but as I think back to Presidential Inaugurations, National CyberPatriot Competitions, and Choir Hawaiian trips I can’t believe how full the experience is for staff and students alike. In the era of budget cuts and fundraising for every program in the school it is becoming harder to do these trips. I hope teachers find a way to continue to seek these opportunities and work to give these opportunities to students.
I return to the question: are these trips worth it? Absolutely, and every time I hear another teacher grumble about people taking vacations, I tell them to create his / her own trip. Find a passion and build a trip around that and share your passion. This past spring our African-American Studies teacher decided to create a trip to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was an amazing trip and included visits to many sites around Washington DC to swell the trip into a complete experience. I have told them that I want to go with them next year!
Teaching should have no limits and we need to find ways for all students to experience something beyond our four walls. Below are some links to pictures and blogs from trips that I have personally traveled on over the years.