School trips: 5 ways to be the perfect teacher sidekick

If you've been invited along on a school trip, here’s how to act to ensure the offers keep coming in the future

Gavin Simpson

teachers: how to be the perfect school trip sidekick

I don’t organise school trips. 

I see the huge amount of work that goes into them, from the vast quantity of paperwork to the time spent liaising with parents, students and travel companies, and the personal responsibility you have to shoulder if something goes wrong. 

It’s a huge ask for teachers. 

Quick read: School trips: the two ways they can be saved

Quick listen: We need to level up our understanding of video games

Want to know more? Student debates: there’s no argument for them

But luckily for me, there are still teachers mad enough to do them and (more importantly, from my perspective) mad enough to let me go with them.

I really appreciate the opportunity and, therefore, I want to be as useful as I can be for the trip leader. 

Here are my five top tips for being the best Dr Watson to their Sherlock Holmes.

1. Energy, energy, energy

The most important aspect of being a trip sidekick is making sure you are up for everything. To use management speak, you can’t have "drains" on a school trip.

With long journeys and lots of hanging around, you need to be the one who energises the room. Be a radiator. Get the Uno out.

2. Embrace tasks 

There is always lots to be done, so take responsibility for a job that the trip leader can then forget about.

Receipt collecting is my favourite one but there are lots of others: seatbelt checker, morning wake-up knocker, bin provider for the back of coaches, official Twitter post writer, photographer…

3. Take the hit sometimes 

Unfortunately, there will be times when students don’t feel very well and can’t do activities. Be the one who steps up and stays with the student rather than doing the fun activity. 

Obviously, you’d like to do it and, technically, it might be the responsibility of the leader to look after the student. But surely the person who has organised everything should get to do the fun stuff as well. Think Guardians of the Galaxy: “We are Groot!”

4. Think carefully about your ablutions 

Not a huge amount to be said here but if you are sharing a room with the leader of the trip, think strategically about bathroom time. Work around them and make them as comfortable as possible.

5. Be interested 

Most of the trips I’ve been on are not related to my subject but you have to role model to the students what you expect to see.

Ask questions, listen carefully to the guides and discuss what you are seeing with the students as a non-expert. The students normally like this because they can impress you with their knowledge. 

I’m sure seasoned sidekicks can offer even more advice but this is a good starting point, especially if you want to keep on getting invited on tour! 

Gavin Simpson is the head of economics at Dame Alice Owen's School in Hertfordshire. He tweets at @MrGSimpson

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