The Field Trip: An American Horror Story

Every teacher has field trip horror stories. This one is pretty scary, if you ask me.
 In the world of Teacherdom exists one common fear, one entity that can bring the strongest amongst us to his knees, and cause the wise to question their purpose. 

More intimidating than Common Core Standards. 

More  formidable than No Child Left Behind. 

Do your best yogic breathing to calm yourself before I speak of the horrors of.... the field trip.

Okay, maybe I'm the only one who feels that way. I almost buy that. As for me, I would rather have root canal. 

You may be thinking I exaggerate. Nay nay. I do not. I am scarred by the harrowing ordeal of my first field trip many years ago. 

The Field Trip: An American Horror Story

I was a brand new teacher, taking 120 7th and 8th graders to a play at South Street Seaport in New York City. My department chairperson and several other teachers would be accompanying us, but it was my trip. I planned it all.

 Things started to go south when one of the other teachers, a large imposing man with a booming voice (you need one of those on a field trip) called me minutes before I left my house on trip day, and told me he was too sick (insert fake cough- I learned about his "reliability" problems later) to accompany us. I actually called my sister, a senior in high school, and begged her to cut school to be a chaperone. Thankfully, she agreed.

All was well until we got into the city. Early. Who ever heard of that anyway? The traffic on the Long Island Expressway is legendary. It's insane every other day of the century, except the day of my field trip. So now we have 45 minutes to "waste" before the show starts. Geez. Just as I was about to ask the theater folks if we could wait inside the theater, my department chair- an intelligent man in every other instance- has a total brain lapse and announces to the kids that they could "walk around the city" as long as they are back for the show. The kids scattered in mere seconds. My soft little suburban kids. Gone. In the city. The. Big. Huge. Dangerous. Apple.

 I'm still surprised I survived that moment. All I remember is running after them shouting things like, "Don't let strangers infiltrate your group!" and other inane warnings.

Needless to say, four kids did not show up for the show. My nervous breakdown was now complete. 

I imagined having to tell their parents that I lost them in the city. I was pretty sure I'd be arrested for neglect. I even tried to turn myself in when I spotted a police officer nearby. He told me that it was way too early to file missing persons reports, and he tried to reassure me by telling me that the kids would probably be okay, as long as they stayed together, that is. And as long as they didn't travel in that direction. He pointed to some dark alley where I guess the drug dealers hang out waiting for innocent suburban kids to get lost on field trips run by negligent teachers.

Probably?! As long as they stayed together? As long as they didn't go in that direction?

This guy wasn't very good at reassuring people. What would he say if someone sitting next to him on a plane was afraid to fly? We'll be okay as long as the plane doesn't crash. 

Uh. Thanks.

Then my sister, God bless her truant soul, saved the day. She ran in and out of every store in the seaport for an hour before finding them sitting in a coffee shop. (What kind of 12-year-olds sit around in a coffee shop, anyway?)

To this day, I have field trip phobia. Can you blame me? 

Do you have any field trip horror stories? Please do share!


  1. Horrors! That must have been a nightmare! I live on an island that is only 20 miles long so our field trips are very limited :) Last year we took all 60 third graders on one bus (the driver assured us we could all fit!) to the Aquarium. We decided that we didn't need any parents to help, didn't need the educational coordinators at the Aquarium - the 3 of us would just handle our own classes. It's a lot harder to handle 20 8-year olds at a zoo than it is in the classroom!! This year our third graders want to go to our "jungle" - caves, ponds, poison ivy, sharp rocks... the thought is positively scintillating! :)

  2. Your trip sounds a little scary too! A group of 60 8 year olds anywhere near ponds and poison ivy sounds almost as bad as NY! I suppose I'm just not cut out for field trips! But it must be lovely to live on a such a small island. Our island is large. Tip to tip about 120 miles by 20.

  3. I've read this a few times and laugh every time! :) I can just picture the look on your face when the kids are released like butterflies on a spring day- storm clouds looming on the horizon, for sure! We have an Outdoor Lab School program where the kids are with us 24/5. I always kid them about the Hansel and Gretel trail- oh, I forgot to mention- the Lab Schools are in the mountains. Lions, not tigers, but bears, oh my yes! I loved Lab School!!

  4. So funny! Thanks for making me laugh! I have always dreaded field trips! I have taught 1st and 2nd graders for years and it seems like whenever we went on a field trip, I always had the 1 student that had to tear up something! I am always surprised when nothing goes wrong. Ha!


    2nd Grade Pig Pen

  5. Oh, I'd be even more nervous with 1st and 2nd graders! It's a three Motrin day for sure!

  6. Gotta love co-workers! I think I would have been a mess. The best I have is rained on during a field trip with no where to take cover.

    Teaching in Blue Jeans