One of the “perks” of my job as an assistant teacher is I get to
go on chaperone all the field trips. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful to help out with my newly adopted 35 children as well as my own son, as he is also in the class. The two years he was in public school there were very few field trips and you had to be chosen from a pool of volunteers to be able to go. I went only once.
Well there won’t be a rarity of trips this year. These private school people like to
party plan lots of events which cost money and loads of volunteer hours field trip. I am now thinking how am I gonna survive the next one?
Our most recent trip was an overnight camping trip. I have not been camping since before pagers/beepers were the form of mobile electronic communication. Luckily we were staying in cabins so I did not need a tent. I own one sleeping bag that my mom bought for my son a few years back for a sleepover or something.
I felt like a pompous high-maintenance ass while preparing my food stuff as I packed my Stevia natural sweetener and my gluten-free cereal. But I threw in my most comfy clothes as I have learned from most other trips that when not at work I want to be as free from confining clothing as possible without looking like a homeless person.
The bulk of my own items were the food and bedding. I learned from the kids and parents who went on this trip the year prior that the beds were “horribly uncomfortable” “hellish” “full of bed bugs and rats” and “make you want to go to the nearest Wal-Mart and purchase a blow-up mattress”. So I brought my old comforter as a barrier and two sets of sheets.
I was the first carload to arrive at the campsite somehow, as I of course made a wrong turn on the way there. When we pulled up the two girls in my car exclaimed how the place looked like a creepy scene from a horror movie. I admit it was pretty rustic but I have slept in worse places.
October in Florida is hit or miss with the humidity and thank god the cabins each had a wall unit a/c. I claimed the bunk right next to it too cause I sure as hell wasn’t gonna suffer night sweats as well as an unwelcome rodent visitor.
The whining and complaining (from the girls, not the boys, who immediately grabbed water guns and started chasing each other around the site) within the first hour was starting to get to me. I told the girls this was high-class camping. We were lucky to have air con and running water. Speaking of-
The bath house wasn’t as bad as the girls made it out to be. I did not once see a rat or roach or tarantula. And the hot water from the rusty shower head flowed beautifully. Until anyone flushed a toilet.
When we took them to the nearby spring for a swim their smiles and laughter replaced the initial moaning and groaning.
Swimming in that crystal-clear, cold spring was by far my favorite part of the trip. We spent hours there both days. Some of the kids tried to catch a crab. Some gathered stones and branches for a fort for their “island” and some were swimming in a spring for the first time in their lives. It was in that water where I saw team-building, sheer happiness, and kids enjoying nature as their entertainment instead of electronics.
There were three things I loathed about this camping trip, however.
Canoeing. I love kayaking and have never had a problem maneuvering one. I’ve kayaked on lakes, tight mangrove trails, in the gulf next to sharks (OK one shark) and jellyfish. But please don’t ever ask me to canoe again. I could not get the whole maneuvering thing down with this bulky 3-seater. My 9 and 10-year-old canoeing partners tried their best to help. We kept slamming into trees, ducking under spider-infested brush, and doing 360’s to get out of tight spaces. I was embarrassed and pissed at myself. And hearing “Man, Miss Jenifer you are really bad at canoeing” from a fourth-grader does nothing for the old self-confidence.
Mosquitoes. I don’t know what kind of chemicals I have to pour onto my feet and ankles to keep these bastards from using me as their 24 hour buffet. I tried the all natural spray that doesn’t smell like it will give you cancer, the stuff with deet that probably does, and even standing so close to the campfire I think my skin was as hot as some of the marshmallows we were charring. Nothing worked. There is a black hole in the cosmos for mosquitoes. They are free to join the fire ants and roaches whenever they desire.
Feeling responsible for over two dozen children’s safety. By a campfire. In the dark woods. On the top bunks above a concrete slab floor. Jumping off rope swings and being carried off by a strong spring current. Thank god there were other teachers and chaperones. And a coach with a big, booming voice and muscles strong enough to grab said children out of the current. I don’t have the loud voice. My instructions are just suggestions to them. This drives me a little bonkers. I am trying to learn how to be more authoritative without having to blow my top. I am the silent worrier. I did not joke much or sleep on the trip. My mind was constantly worrying. And some of the kids are so relentless in their need for adventure it makes it grueling to have to be the adult.
But I did jump from the rope swing. I dove for shells with them. I tried to scare them in the woods while they played “hidden”. They let me in on their crush dramas. They showed me frogs they caught. They pointed out the stars to me when I hadn’t looked up at the sky once.
Except for the above mentioned dislikes, it was a pretty successful and enjoyable trip. And I learned I can still rough-it. My gluten-free cereal was mere child’s play compared to another chaperone’s electric skillet and organic sausages. And I have to admit my bed was comfy as hell. And no rats visited me in the night. I think they were afraid of the mosquitoes.