Though her journey with student travel began not long ago, Anaïs Childress, IB History Teacher at Hillcrest High School in Dallas, Texas, already knows how integral travel and exploration are for student growth.
“Travel is the single most important aspect—next to education—in combatting the ignorance that we all have,” said Childress, who has taught Social Studies – Modern Global Issues, International Baccalaureate History, U.S. History and African American Studies.
“I want students to experience something different than what they are used to and experience the possibilities that might be out there.”
Childress loves getting to know her students on a deeper level, outside of the classroom.
“Students need to know that they are cared for and I believe that student educational travel helps you foster those relationships with students,” Childress explained, noting the biggest challenge she faces with planning student travel in a large urban district is the cost. “It can be so expensive, and it usually means that more affluent school communities are able to participate in these activities, so I want to be super intentional about ensuring that these opportunities are given to all students.”
Though Childress’ district doesn’t allow fundraising for travel as it’s not sponsored by the district, that doesn’t stop her from finding ways to make the privilege of travel possible for many of her students.
“What has been super helpful to me is to plan in advance,” said Childress, who counts New York, D.C., Costa Rica and Beijing among her favorite travel destinations so far. “I usually start planning trips 18 to 20 months in advance, because more of my students can afford paying $100 to 200 a month versus over $600 a month.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of travel, Childress says, because you never know when that freedom can be temporarily altered. Yet through it all, she’s remaining positive and is looking forward to the future—with a trip to Greece planned for summer 2021.
“I usually actually have students vote on where they want to go in order to increase buy-in,” said Childress, stressing the importance she places on student safety. “I want it to be a safe experience because for many of my students, it is usually their first time outside of the country or even on a plane!”
Childress has plenty of memorable moments from her student travels. One from a trip to Washington, D.C., stands out.
“I had a student who was two hours late to the airport and we almost left him behind. What stuck out to me though is that the student was combating a lot to even be able to come on the trip—working hours at work, sacrificing things just so he could be there—I was not about to leave him behind. We made fun of his timeliness during the first few days of the trip.”
Making the best of an unexpected situation is also something Childress is familiar with.
“We were delayed by 17 hours on the way home and because of the timing, we had to sleep on the floor of the airport. My students and I did face masks, got massages, and played games before sleeping on chairs and tables of the airport, waiting to be let on the plane back home!”
Childress’ advice to other educators who are thinking about traveling with students?
“Travel to places you have been before!
“It makes the experience so much richer. Some companies provide opportunities for you to go on a training tour so you can see how it’s done—and I think that is so helpful, as we love to plan ahead for things!”
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Teach & Travel.
Photo courtesy of Anaïs Childress.
This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Teach & Travel.