props to Mark Parisi

Curmudgeons Who Don’t Like Class Trips Huff and Puff

Jose 11 Comments

props to Mark Parisi

After that passionate imaginary letter I wrote to one of my students on Tuesday, a few questions came up about how I approached the situation.

Did your administration support you through this decision?

In a word, yes. Though I knew I was right and I thought about my decision clearly, I still consulted with fellow teachers and administration, and I got the right response. I didn’t have to ask my principal because the assistant principal was enough. I know a lot of my fellow bloggers find themselves in more dire straits, but I also notice a lot of principals who blog that say I’m somehow stifling the young man’s creativity and individuality. The next three questions should address that.

By not letting him go to the trip, aren’t you promoting a perpetual cycle of failure for him?

In some ways I understand the question, but in realistic terms, no. I believe I was rather clear about the chances I’ve given him, and if he can’t respect that, then what happens when we’re actually outside and I’m responsible for his well-being and safety on the subway or anywhere else? Furthermore, what kind of message does that send to the kids who do behave well and make a decent effort to do well socially and academically? I have students who once messed up but improved significantly in all the major areas and they’re getting a chance to go on trips, so for this student, that’s not the case. He hasn’t been an exemplary student, and there have to be consequences.

Don’t you think you’re pushing your kid so hard to fit a mold that you’ll squash his “creativity and independent spirit”?

Again, a somewhat valid question, but one that I’m more than willing to squash. (I’m not sure where either of these qualities comes into the argument of whether or not the student deserves a trip or not, but whatever.) If we think of the most creative and independent spirits of our time, I can make a pretty safe assumption that, in order for them to break the rules, they must learn and master them. Every rapper had a favorite rap song they knew every word to, and wrapped their head around that favorite style until they found their own niche. Same goes for artists, and even teachers. This student needs to learn the rules and understand why we make those rules before he goes off and becomes an independent high school student and eventually college. That’s the difference between someone who’s self-reliant and one who’s a recluse.

Also note that I consider myself rather creative and more often than not allow for creativity and independence in my classroom, but in a constructive and positive manner. We also need to find ways to hone that. The most talented athletes may not always be the most successful, but the most successful athletes have an excellent mix of talent and discipline. Then again, you’d have to have read my blog for more than one post, or actually read the whole post to see that.

Isn’t using a trip or any “escape from school” demeaning the purpose of school itself?

Let’s flip that question on its head then: do you think we should have trips at all then? And if so, then are you taking everyone? Again, just from yesterday’s experience with my students, I have a pretty good idea of what the answers to those questions are. I know how trips often help develop the civil skills of my students, and helps me gauge how much they’ve grown socially as well as academically. When, for instance, I can take them to the park and they can interact with their teachers and fellow students without the confines of the school building, it changes things a little bit. Unless you a) find yourself really uncomfortable with the group of students who you’re trying to take out, 2) your group of students don’t merit getting a trip, especially one on your own dime or 3) are a bit of a hermit / curmudgeon, then I can’t see anyone trying to discredit teachers for taking their students on a class trip.

Then again, I think my reasoning was pretty clear, and for people who insist on playing the devil’s advocate on these questions have to come correct. I’m not asking for the children to be perfect, but here’s the order:

1. He cut class.
2. He begs for trip.
3. I say, “If you cut class again, you don’t get this privilege.”
4. He cuts class again.
5. I decline his invitation.

Done. Respond as you please.

jose, who has a few more trips to go on …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonCurmudgeons Who Don’t Like Class Trips Huff and Puff

Comments 11

  1. Jonathan

    Yeah, with you 100%.

    Same thing happened to me, not so long ago. Though I wasn’t in your role. I thought a kid shouldn’t go, another teacher reasoned better, gave the kid your talk (same issue). Another cut, so…

    But in my case my administration backed us up, but after hemming and hawing a bit. I am glad they came down on the right side, and they say they always intended to back us, but for the brief time we were hanging, it wasn’t fun.

  2. Post
    Author
    Jose

    JD, thanks for comin’ round. A lot of administrators don’t really understand how important it is for them to back us up when we need them. Fortunately, mine did just when I needed them to. Then again, even if I didn’t consult with them, they’re usually glad to let me be autonomous with my decisions. Even today, the kid and his friend (the friend who influenced him to skip homerooms to begin with) wanted to beg me to go. I said, “you’re earning the next one. This one is a no go, gentlemen.” No need to scream, but that’s the deal. He didn’t get to go because he needs to face consequences.

  3. ur lilbro

    WORD!!! good shit!…nah but on a serious note you made the right move, the future of these kids is slipping through their hands like sand and they don’t know it. Good job on regulating and hopefully you started a movement amongst your colleagues who in the future one be afraid to reprimand such students.

  4. talda

    it seems so simple, how could anyone disagree? i’m glad to hear your administration stood behind you on this because kids need to know that their actions [or inactions] have consequences that need to be dealt with. besides, as you already acknowledged, letting this one kid go would be highly detrimental to the other kids that did right by the rules. can you really forsake a group for the sake of one? hopefully knowing that you are serious about punishing for failing to meet responsibilities maybe he’ll shape up for the next trip and beyond.

  5. AngelaMichelle

    “Isn’t using a trip or any “escape from school” demeaning the purpose of school itself?”

    someone seriously asked you this question? so i suppose it is assumed that learning opportunities only exist within what walls of a sanctioned school house, and once children leave that building a little switch flips, shutting off their cognitive recesses, shutting down the ability to absorb “lessons” from other sources. because “lord” knows all children need to know in life is how to read, write, calculate, and recite. obviously they don’t need social skills or any “real life” lessons, since as adults, once the work day is through, they’ll each just go into their “stand by” closets till it’s time for work again the next morning. or maybe that’s just me. *shrug*

    excellent post as always, mr. v.

  6. nyc educator

    I don’t take problem kids on trips, ever. This should really not be an issue, as trips require permission from all teachers, which certainly suggests an option to deny it. It’s one thing to deal with nonsense in class, but quite another when you’re outside and responsible for the kid’s behavior. Trips are extra, not mandatory, and administrators who thinks all kids must be included on trips ought to escort those kids themselves.

    I have a colleague who insisted on taking kids on trips after I denied them permission, and now I will not sign any permission slips from that colleague. Really, school is first. Trips are an additional extra, not a right.

    You’re absolutely right that there need to be consequences. That attitude will help you be an effective teacher (and maybe an effective parent one of these days). Kids who give me a hard time don’t go on trips with me, and I think really hard before I let them go with anyone else. They don’t like it? Good. That’s exactly the point.

    By the way, I was on a trip yesterday with 150 kids, and it was great.

  7. Jen

    If we think of the most creative and independent spirits of our time, I can make a pretty safe assumption that, in order for them to break the rules, they must learn and master them.

    and

    The most talented athletes may not always be the most successful, but the most successful athletes have an excellent mix of talent and discipline.

    How succinctly you put these two ideas. Any time I hear someone groan about how something like this (not getting something that’s a special treat, basically) crushes creativity my head nearly explodes.

    Whining, not doing work, always looking for the easy trick or the shortcut — those are the things that hurt kids. Being given clear guidelines and having them followed is actually the opposite of harmful.

    As NYCed says, this is a fine parenting skill too. The parents who talk about not crushing their little darling’s creativity are usually the same ones whose little darling is off ripping out another child’s hair or shrieking or racing around tripping up waiters and waitresses.

    Now, my kid’s elementary school does these ridiculous once a quarter reward trips to “fun places” like, ummm, shoot, now I can’t remember. The last one was the zoo and that was by far the most educational of the batch. Oh, another one was roller skating.

    The problem is that some kids lose the chance to go on the trip in the first week of the quarter — sort of killing the motivational aspect of the trip.

    Personally, for littler kids like this, I’d like to see smaller rewards far more often, so that *those* kids can get a chance to behave long enough to get one and have it be rewarding. You could even stretch the lengths (and rewards) out as the year went on.

  8. John Holland

    Great points all around Jose. You have to stand strong because if everyone bends over backward for this kid he will learn that you only have to do what gets you by not what is “right.” And, consequences are consequences not threats.
    He will love you for it if he makes it to 30 years old.
    By not letting him go you are actually showing him you care about him more deeply than someone who just wants him to be “happy”.

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