This week we took 45 eighth and ninth graders to Arches National Park for four days where we hiked to Delicate Arch, stood on top of Double O Arch, explored Negro Bill Canyon, climbed to the base of Castleton, swam in Mill Creek, and peered over the edge at Dead Horse Point. Let the good times roll!
I let the kids bring their cell phones on most of my field trips but I made it very, VERY clear that electronic devices of any kind (stand-alone cameras being an exception) were NOT allowed on this field trip—no, none, NOT ANY! I wanted the kids to disconnect from the world and to connect with each other and with their surroundings; to experience life unplugged for a couple days. Having spent most of my life disconnected (in one way or another!) I was confident the experience would not kill them.
On the bus ride home I found Jason plugged into a tablet he told me was Karla's. Really? Karla?!??! Over the course of the trip I had spent hours at her feet, literally. Her poor toes were ground to hamburger by her inadequate shoes. I cleaned, doctored, and bandaged her feet every morning and every night and several times in-between. Slowed by pain, she was almost always at the end of the line and I was almost always at her side, encouraging her and lauding her efforts. Discovering that she brought and used an electronic devise felt like a stab in the back.
Later, on the same bus ride home, I found Karla using a cell phone. Seriously. It might have been funny if it weren’t so painful. (Someday maybe I will laugh about it…..)
Near the end of the bus ride Karla came to me and asked that I give the tablet back to her when we arrived at the school. “Everyone has electronics,” was her reason. Everyone? Clearly not everyone had them but, also clearly, there were many more traitors that I realized…….More stabs in the back.
Sunni also approached me, asking me to return to her the cell phone I had taken from Karla “My parents made me bring it,” she said, “in case the school was not open when we got back so that I could call home.” Male bovine scat. There were four OPA teachers on the trip; we would be able get into the building. Lying and bringing electronics……more stabs in my back….
When we returned to the school, Annie’s father approached me and asked for the cell phone back. The cell phone did not even belong to Sunni so her lie about her parents making her bring it was on top of a lie about who the device belonged to… Twist the knife as it is used to stab me in the back….
And….to add to the web of disloyalty and deception, Sam (my colleague) told me that the night before he overheard plans to sneak out of the tents after “lights out”. He had to stage a silent stake-out, late at night, waiting for them to initiate their escapade. “It was hell,” were his exact words.
Kids will be kids, right? Wrong. I refuse to accept that. Some kids will be kids but these are not some kids. These are MY kids. Every class period I shake their hands, look them in the eye, and welcome them by name as they enter my room. I spent the last year developing relationships of trust with them. I took them skiing in North Fork, experimenting at the University of Utah, exploring at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, and tree planting at Mount Ogden Park. We’ve gone on walks, ridden trains, and been to concerts together. In every instance they trusted me to do as I promised and I trusted them to do as I asked. And it has worked well for us. We have each other’s backs. We are quality people. We are the OPA family….which is why their deception hurt so badly. I was not betrayed by just any students; I was betrayed by MY students. Ouch.
I know that eighth graders are not exceedingly mature, still developing good judgement, and prone to making choices that are less than laudable but I also know that they can be noble, loyal, and trustworthy. I recognize the importance of acknowledging the “nature of the beast”, so to speak, but I also recognize the importance of NOT settling for “beastliness”; children will be children but that does not make childishness acceptable.
So, in the complex geometry of student/teacher relations, I need to find an angle of repose. As I see it I must either 1) accept errant behavior has inevitable, 2) find a way to more effectively create loyalty, or 3) quit taking kids on overnight field trips because I am unable to do the first two options. I am not sure what I will decide but, thankfully, the decision does not have to be made right away.
In the meantime, I am making the decision to focus on the trip’s bright points and there were many, MANY of those (not the least of which was we had wonderful weather…the rain started as we were driving out of the Park on our way home---certainly a tender mercy!)
Ø Doug, our bus driver, was FABULOUS. He hiked with the group, teased the kids, and shared his snacks with me. Perfect!
Ø Everyone came back alive---certainly a bonus! As I watched the kids sit on the top of Double O Arch and again, as I scrambled, scared, across the loose talus slope at Castleton’s base, I thought “It is a good thing that some parents cannot see what I let their children do.” “SKETCHY” was the word of the day at Castleton. “Teresa must have been really praying for us,” Andrea said, “because no one was hurt.” True and true.
Ø “Mrs. Hislop, I tore a hole in my shorts,” Brad told me as he showed me a four inch, three cornered tear in his swim trunks. We had finished our Castleton hike and were headed to our Mill Creek adventure with no scheduled stop at the camp ground in-between. “Wrap in a blanket,” I told him, “and give me your shorts.” Obediently and discreetly he shimmied out of his shorts and handed them to me. Using my blister-popping needle and some spare thread, I quickly sewed the hole shut and he was re-clothed before anyone realized that he hadn’t been.
Ø When Lars saw me at Delicate Arch he said, with obvious pleasure, “You made it!” I am not sure what made him think I might not have made it but I am glad that he was glad that I did.
Ø Megan and Sienna fed me popcorn. I love popcorn.
Ø Sam and Talyn fed me blueberries. I REALLY love blueberries!
Ø “This is the first time I have ever been camping and hiking,” reported Marion. “I love it!”
Ø The week before the trip, Heather’s grandmother (who is raising her) found me at school and expressed her concerns. “I am so scared,” she confessed. “This is the first time she has been away from home. I know that it will be a good experience for her but it is really, really hard for me.” It was a good experience for Heather…..and probably for her grandmother as well.
Ø On the way from one hike to another, the kids had a “rap off”. Carson, who struggles a bit for acceptance, won the contest and enjoyed some time in a the limelight.
Ø “The trip was great,” Allison said, “except the hiking.” When I asked her why she came on a hiking trip if she did not like hiking she said, with a smile, “Let me put it this way…..After the Castleton hike, my legs would have hurt less if I’d cut them off.”
Ø Manual, a not-athletic appearing boy, led the pack everywhere. He climbed to the top of the highest point, sat in the bottom of the biggest mud hole, and strode confidently across the sketchiest slope. Who’d have thought?
I truly love these kids!!
P.S. On the home front……..
While I was in Arches with other people’s children, my children had some adventures of their own.
· Miles won a GOLD medal in Krypto at the Weber County Math/Science Olympiad.
· Tanah earned a HIGHLY PROFICIENT rating on the SAGE Chemistry test that she feared she would fail.
· Grace fouled out of her basketball game.
· Miles crashed riding his bike to school and had to get four stitches in his knee.
· Tanah was named 2015-2016 Roy High Drama Club President.