The accident involving the FedEx truck and charter bus just north of Sacramento has shaken me to the core. This kind of trip, high school students getting to go see a school, a business, an institution, was what I did with my students for 21 years. Nineteen times a year we got on a bus and went somewhere. Trips in town,or locally, were taken on school district busses; those out of town trips were taken on charter busses.
Before every trip, I would prepare the students as to what we would see, how they should dress, how to behave, when we would leave and when we would be back. One thing I never discussed was how to handle an accident, especially one of this magnitude. The bus drivers would quickly tell the students, before we pulled away, about the emergency exits and how to access them and what to do should something happen to prevent the driver from performing his duties. Almost all of these drivers were highly conscientious and well trained. Many of the drivers would request our trips because the students were polite and well-behaved and the teachers on time and knew where to go. Our trips were successful.
As Terry and I sit in front of the television, watching the film footage of this horrendous accident in Orland, we reach for one another, thinking the unthinkable–this could have been us. Terry often accompanied us on out of town trips. I would pray before each trip, asking for safety and good behavior. Once we returned to school, and stepped off of the bus, all of the teachers would say, “Thank God, we did it again. Another trip done.” And then we went to our cars and drove home, safe and sound. The parents picked up their kids and took them home.
Those parents and loved ones who will not be taking their child home weigh heavily on my mind. The young couple who was chaperoning the trip to visit a college at the other end of the state will not get to see their own children go on such a trip. They didn’t even make it down the aisle to say “I do.” All, in a moment, gone. The thought keeps running through my mind, “It could have been us.”
When I taught in the large inner city high school, there were lots of field trips. If you were with me back there when I had a teaching career, then you may remember the details of those trips.
We went everywhere, making sure our students dressed professionally, behaved well, asked intelligent questions (because we did lots of research before hand), and wrote thank-you notes when they got back. I was the crazed teacher who worried constantly about how well her students were behaving and keeping an eye on the clock to make sure we got back to the bus on time. Now, I am on the other end. I am the tour guide. It is so much more fun.
The bus arrives, the kids and teachers pile off, they split into groups, and I ask the mansion tour group to line up on the steps of the large home. I have my script; I know how to line up the students; I have 45 minutes to get them through the house with all the information they will need and then line them up for the servant’s quarters/gift shop visit which is someone else’s responsibility. Then I make a dash through the house, open the door, and greet the next group of students. Two or three of these groups and I’m done and can go home.
It is so much more fun than getting the students back to school and teaching a couple more classes as well as preparing for the next day’s lessons. Less stress, too. I like being the tour guide.
I’m up at 4 a.m. this morning, dear Reader, because I am leaving at 6 a.m. with a bus load of students, heading for my favorite destination, San Francisco. Every January we take all the kids in the two academies who had a 3.0 or better g.p.a. at the semester to that wonderful city so that they can see what a big shopping center looks like. We go downtown to the Westfield Mall and over to Union Square. Last year I hiked a group up to China Town. I’ll be back in town by 6 p.m. and will report on our day. By the way, for all of you east of theRockies, the weather in SF today will be 60 degrees.
Each year we reward our students who have a 3.0 g.p.a. at the semester with a trip to San Francisco for the day. We charter a bus and about 30 kids usually qualify to go. This year 27 actually signed on to take the trip and there were 5 adults along for the fun. The students must dress professionally (meaning dress shirt and tie for guys; 3 piece pants suit or skirt for gals) and show up at 6 a.m. to leave. Although we pay for the bus with grant money, the kids must bring their own spending money. It’s asking a lot for inner city kids, but they rise to the occasion. We have done this now for about 6 years as it was a suggestion of one of our business partners to reward the really good kids with something meaningful and at the same time, educational.
Yesterday was our annual trip and it all went off, again, without a hitch. Although rainy and cold in SF, the kids were fine as most of them remained close to the Westfield Center which is a large, multistoried mall in downtown SF. I went over to the Tenderloin to meet my daughter for lunch at her favorite vegan Chinese restaurant and got pretty wet coming back down the hill. The photo at the top of this page is taken from a hotel on Post, looking south on Mason, where I stayed this past summer. I walked that street yesterday as I headed back to the mall, turning around to glance up at the windows from where the photo had been shot. There, in a window, was a woman, doing much as I had done, watching the street scene from the comfort of her studio. Being blown about, I wished I was up there, dry and comfy, taking in the view.
San Francisco is a magical city, one I dearly love, yet many of our students have never been there. They don’t understand a large city that has so much to offer. It is a different culture and they are glad to get the experience and see what is actually out there, beyond their 6 blocks. It is a good educational experience that can’t be taught while sitting in a classroom. I always say, the students won’t remember what we did in class on February 1, but they will remember a trip to a city by the bay for the rest of their lives.