Have a good field trip, I mean holiday

11th June 2004 at 01:00
It's not always fun being a chemistry teacher. For starters, people tend to assume that you blow things up a lot more than you actually do. In reality, parents show a touching concern for their offspring and, in most cases, seem to want them returned intact. But it is probably worse being married to a chemistry teacher. Or, I imagine, to any teacher. Particularly at holiday time.

You see, we do have a tendency to organise, science teachers arguably more than most. It's the investigations. At this stage of the year, it is difficult to count the number of times we've asked questions such as: "What are you hoping to achieve by doing that?"; "How exactly are you going to do it?"; and "What do you think you'll need?" So, imagine packing for the family holiday straight after term finishes. Teachers, by this time of year, are well into the groove.

Also take into account the fact that science teachers don't actually do much of the practical work themselves; they stand back and watch others doing it. They offer helpful advice, until their nerve breaks. Then they step in with a small, pained sigh, trying not to roll their eyes, and ask again in a determinedly patient voice: "And what do you think you should be doing now?"

Partners tend not to take this sort of direction too well. They seem not to value the high level of organisational skills some of us have refined. One man's facilitator, another man's bossy cow, it seems. It's all a matter of perspective.

Then there is the risk assessment for the trip itself, including a full inspection of the vehicle before departure which some might translate into kicking the tyres and calling the job good. Others might not. Head counts are obviously essential, before, during and after departure, as is inclusion of the sick kit. Naturally, there is a designated first-aider on board, and all mobile phones are programmed with emergency numbers.

Contingency plans in case of fire, flood, accident or global thermonuclear war are included, not forgetting, of course, the vital worksheets.

On the trip itself, sorry, holiday, assuming you get this far - and a positive outcome is by no means assured - planning is the key to success.

It is important that no one is idle, as this could breed discontent. All those visitor centres you pass could be ideal for a future school trip, and it would be a shame to pass by without checking them out. And it's probably about time you did another head count anyway.

Some people get a bit huffy about all this. It's probably something to do with why holidays - or field trips as we call them in our house - tend to be less popular these days. Still, it's all worth it when you get back to the staffroom and can smugly say: actually, we went away. It made a lovely change.

Kristina Humphries teaches at Newcastle-under-Lyme independent school, Staffordshire

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