School field trips; say a prayer

Cindy ArpPowell

The second year I taught school, I decided to organize a student field trip. At that time, team teaching was all the rage and teachers were encouraged, when at all possible, to connect a unit of study throughout the subject areas. We had been studying Tennessee; the state’s history, geology and literature and felt we’d done a good job fitting the subject into most study areas. It had been a satisfying, rewarding experience. We had well-behaved students and it seemed to me a trip to the historically significant Fort Loudon would be just the thing to end the unit. I was the youngest member of the teaching team and while my idea of taking over 120 seventh-grade students on a field trip wasn’t met with great enthusiasm, everybody agreed to the plan.

Familiar teachers then at Powell Middle: Mack Sanders, science; Cindy Arp, language arts; Betty Griffin, math; and Wayne Ballard, social studies.

Finally, all the paperwork was signed and approved, the buses were booked, and the fort was apprised of our visit. The day arrived, but even before the buses arrived, problems began:

One of the girls felt faint.

One of the boys, when asked what he was chewing, swallowed a plug of tobacco and was sick all day.

Five minutes into the trip another student had a generalized tonic-clonic seizure (formerly known as a grand mal epileptic seizure.) He was carried off the bus on a stretcher.

All this happened not 10 miles from our school.

When we finally made it to Fort Loudon, I banned any rampart jumping, but when out of my sight, a mischievous set of twin boys dared a girl to jump. She jumped and broke her leg. I had the boys position their arms to make a seat for the girl and carry her to the fort’s office where I called her mother and explained what had happened. Her mother immediately came and took her child to the doctor.

Because God is merciful, nothing else happened after that.

At the end of that field trip, after all the students were accounted for and loaded on the buses, I reflected on all we’d learned about Tennessee that day. We’d learned that folks from Tennessee shouldn’t swallow chewing tobacco, we learned what a Tennessee epileptic fit looked like, we learned that Tennesseans should not issue dangerous dares and we learned that a Tennessean should not accept a dangerous dare. We experienced firsthand what it is like to be on a fort’s ramparts, and maybe we even learned a little about Fort Loudon.

I led other field trips during my teaching years; successful, educational experiences that benefited the students. Fortunately, I never led another trip that was as eventful as that first one.

The next time you run across a school field trip, take a moment and say a prayer for the group. Pray for unintended events, pray for patience and if you get a chance, pray for that brave, frantic teacher marching onto the educational battlefield, desperately trying to introduce to the students a thirst for knowledge, perhaps accompanied with firsthand experience.

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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