Michael McLaughlin, Head of Middle School and a member of the Art and Design faculty at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Massachusetts, oversees Austin’s international and major domestic travel programs and facilitates smaller field trips in the Middle School. McLaughlin, who has traveled to 17 countries and counting, talks about what parents want to know before their students travel.
What is the most common question parents ask?
I love when parents ask if they can all come on the trip or when we’ll offer a similar trip for just parents. To me, it is an indicator of the value that parents place on these opportunities for their student.
What should parents know?
It’s important for parents to know the difference between the pace and logistics of a student group tour and a trip to the same place with just their family. I speak with the students about how everything—security screenings, accounting for travelers, stretch breaks—takes a bit longer with a larger group. I let parents know some of the safety protocols we put in place for students, at the hotel or when we’re out and about touring. It’s also important to go over expectations about accommodations, meals, curfews, technology use and less-structured time. One of the most valuable meetings I have for each trip is the parent pre-departure info session, which is always followed by an email with digital copies of my slide deck and handouts.
How do you ensure parents are confident in letting their child travel?
I create a Google Drive folder with PDFs of all my handouts: the slide deck, packing list, day-by-day itinerary, copies of medical paperwork and contact information. I empower the students to access this information, too—usually by creating a QR code that hangs in their classroom and on the tour bus, which they can scan to go right to the Drive.
I oversee the planning and running of our international travel and study abroad opportunities, from service and language immersion trips to study abroad experiences—initiatives stemming from our Augustinian heritage. After all, it was Saint Augustine who wrote, “The world is like a book, and those who do not travel read but only a page.” Travel helps our students see the world that lies beyond our campus—to view the world as a classroom and bring back their real-world experiences to further inform their learning.
Written by Amy L Charles, Editorial Director for Teach & Travel.
This article originally appeared in Teach & Travel.