Chaperones are a crucial part of any school trip—one teacher simply can’t keep track of dozens of excited and energized students.
That said, you don’t always get to pick who your chaperones are, unless you’re lucky enough to have a flood of volunteers. So before you go on your trip, it’s important to make sure they are fully prepared to be the best they can be—you don’t want to end up chaperoning the chaperones.
Here are just a few of our tips for ensuring someone’s fit to be a chaperone, and how to train them for student travel.
Check with the administration. Whether it’s your tour operator or school administration, there are bound to be policies in place around chaperones. Most important is the student-to-chaperone ratio, which determines how many you’ll need. If possible, go above the bare minimum, in case a chaperone needs to step away for any reason.
Make your pick. If you have a choice, we suggest fellow teachers as chaperones rather than parents. Either way, consider how they interact with students, if they garner respect, if they have travel experience, and any other skills like first aid or a second language. Also consider gender, as you’d ideally have chaperones that reflect your group.
Get them involved early.You really want to make sure chaperones know this isn’t a free vacation. Everyone should be expected to earn their way onto this trip, just as the students did through hard work, and possibly money. Get your chaperones involved in the preplanning and organizing so they feel personally invested, becoming experts before the trip starts.
Outline expectations. We suggest doing this in writing. The last thing you want is a chaperone who’s upset and overwhelmed because of a misunderstanding. Are they expected to participate in activities or just escort? How many students will they be responsible for? Will they have any scheduled free time at all? Do they get their own room? And the big question: Are they allowed to drink alcohol, even in their free time?
Prepare for emergencies. Ideally, each chaperone would have their own travel kit with things like bandages, wipes, sanitizer, a thermometer, medicine, a little extra cash, etc. But you also want them to be trained for bigger emergencies like a missing student. It’s also a great idea to provide each chaperone with printed emergency contact info, medical info, and dietary restrictions for each traveler, as well as an itinerary.
Lay down the law. Familiarize chaperones with all rules applying to students—from the school and tour company and as local customs dictate: dress code, public displays of affection, language, cellphone use, curfew and whether they can leave the hotel. Discuss how infractions will be handled—you don’t want a chaperone yelling at students for every little thing, but you also don’t want total anarchy.
Stay positive. It’s not always easy, but where you can, you want an infectious good mood that spreads to the chaperones and then to the students. Student travel may not be a free vacation, but it still is fun!
This story originally appeared in Teach & Travel’s November/December 2022 issue.