Vail Daily columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: Herding cats, er, teenagers
Vail, CO, Colorado
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Awful. This chaperoning trip is simply awful. Perhaps I should be more accurate and say awe-full. I am full of awe. At every turn, at every stop. Awe-full.
I think the people around me on the bus are going to get tired of hearing me say, “Ooo, look! It’s the Capitol!” Or, “Oh, wow, there’s the Washington Monument!”
I just can’t help it. All these amazing things keep sneaking up on me. We’ll just be driving down the street and then, bam! They pop out of nowhere!
Now I’ve been here before, and I know these things are here, but it does not diminish the awe. The scale and majesty of the buildings and monuments is mind-boggling. The sense of the past and significance of these places astound. It’s like being mugged by history.
The other chaperones and I keep turning to each other at various points, saying, “Can you believe this? Amazing!”
I wish I could say the eighth-graders are having the same reaction. I know deep down they’re also in awe. I think their minds are so blown by the history and the importance of what they’re seeing here in Washington, D.C., that their facades are appearing to be blase and unaffected. I think they’re dealing with the swell of emotions in the best way they know how: by hanging out in groups, talking, laughing, taking pictures of each other, catching fireflies. It’s all good.
The chaperones are a group of five parents and two teachers, including the one I will call our Enthusiastic Leader. I do believe he was a cheerleader in a former life. Nothing deters his passion for history or enthusiasm about this experience.
His positive attitude is infectious. In a stroke of brilliance, he entices the exhausted kids with free Starbucks for correctly answered trivia questions, refueling them for the next stop. He announced, on the day of our arrival, that it was National Doughnut Day and that Krispy Kreme gives everyone who comes in a free doughnut. I don’t think they were expecting a bus full, but there were free doughnuts for all!
One of the other parents, the one we’ll call the Instigator of Fun, keeps things light. He conceived the idea to get everyone to cluck like a chicken every time the Enthusiastic Leader said the word “monument” when talking on the bus PA system on our second day. It sounded like a hen house on wheels.
The Instigator also greeted everyone on the day we went to Mount Vernon wearing a hat and goggles, announcing a powder day, getting everyone fired up about skiing at Mount Vernon.
Ironically, that theme continued once we got there, right behind a group of 1,500 students from Knoxville, Tenn. Yes, one-thousand-five-hundred kids. They brought their own police force and ambulance with them. Needless to say, the Enthusiastic Leader encouraged us to adapt to the circumstance (definitions provided for the non-skiers).
“It’s a powder day, the pass didn’t close and we slept in. We’ll still get to ski the powder, just not first tracks. And we’re going in switch (backwards). We can’t get a time to tour the mansion until the afternoon, so we’re staying off the groomers (where everyone else goes), heading into the information center first, then hitting the trees (touring the grounds).”
Not our only chance to adapt on the trip. We sloshed our way through the Jefferson Memorial in a downpour our first evening, delaying our visit to the war memorials as we sat on the bus with sheets of rain running down the windows. So far, we’ve had two lost cell phones and one lost wallet, all found, fortunately.
The worst was the two hours spent by Teacher Chaperone and one student digging through trash to recover retainers thrown away after lunch. I’m thinking of nominating her for teacher of the year.
The 5:1 ratio of students to each chaperone presents its own challenges. After the first day, we likened keeping them in a group to herding cats. They’re wily, those teenagers. It is amazing how fast an able-bodied adult can lose track of five of them in a museum. I can tell you from personal experience, it takes less than a minute.
And even when you think you have them corralled, but you let three of them go to the men’s room on the floor below, you are likely to be faced with a security guard who catches them playing on the escalator. After I yelled, I left the consequences up to him. The former Marine sent the boys into the Star Spangled Banner exhibit, then quizzed them and made them do push-ups for wrong answers. They will never play on another escalator.
Stay tuned next week for The Chaperone Experience: New York City
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through editor@vail
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