The Fine Art of Chaperoning

Selecting chaperones is serious business. The right chaperones support you and your students in terms of safety, appropriate behavior, and promoting the goals of the trip. The wrong chaperones assume this is an adult getaway, undermine the trip’s objectives, and are late, rude, and pretty much useless. Let’s vote for the first group of chaperones. How about a couple of tips?
Knowledge is Power
Always check first with your administration regarding requirements for adult chaperones. Do chaperones need to be over a certain age? Are fingerprinting or medical clearances required? What chaperone-to-student ratios need to be met? Find out early before you seek out your chaperones. Once you understand the parameters set by the school district, you’re ready to move forward.
Recruiting Chaperones
Notify all the parents early so you’ll get a big pool of chaperones from which to choose.  These folks may have to take off work, arrange for alternate childcare, or re-arrange their schedules, so details about times and dates are important before a parent can agree to volunteer.  Once you have a good list of willing parents, it’s time to select your chaperones.  Now is not the time to worry about hurt feelings.  Chaperone choice is based on who would make the best chaperone, not which chaperone is the nicest or gave you the best holiday cookies or has the best trumpet player.  You’ll be thankful you selected responsible parents with positive attitudes who are dedicated to make the experience safe and enjoyable for all.
Just When You Think You’ve Seen It All…
Don’t assume that all parents know what to do in every circumstance. Prepping your adults before the trip will go a long way to a safe and enjoyable experience for your students.  Let them know what MIGHT happen so they can prepare.
Scheduling and Calendaring
Have a meeting to distribute a schedule of events with important times and locations.  Include meal information, meeting times, departure times, and performance times. Emphasize punctuality.  Now’s a great time for parents to ask questions.
Assign Students to Chaperones
After matching students to chaperones, provide chaperones with parent’s phone numbers, emergency medical forms, lists of medications, potential allergies, or any other tidbits of information that will assist the adult to look after their charges. It seems pretty obvious, but be sure every chaperone on the trip has a phone number for every other chaperone, the group leader, the hotel, the bus driver, and each student’s cell phone number.
Be specific about what the chaperone should do in case of illness or injury.  Have a plan in place and your chaperone will follow it.
No Alcohol or Tobacco
Tell chaperones that this is not a time to enjoy a little toddy in the evening.  They are on duty day and night.  And they are setting an example for students.  Make it clear when they sign up, so there’s no confusion later on.  Consider having a signed agreement for the chaperones.
Younger Siblings – Yes or No?  
Decide whether you will accept younger siblings on the trip.  They can be a distraction for your chaperones and the trip really is designed for the students, not for little brother or sister.  This is your call and should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Dress Code and Language 
Here’s a biggie and you need to address it.  Chaperones should wear appropriate and modest clothing. You may need to be specific about exactly what that means. And it should go without saying that chaperones should always use acceptable language.
What if Students Don’t Mind Their P’s and Q’s?  
Chaperones need to know what you’d like them to do if students are not following directions or showing disrespect to adults or fellow student travelers.  Most group leaders will want you to refer the matter to them.  Above all, chaperones shouldn’t lose their cool with any student, including their own.  Calm and serenity are the keywords here.
Night Time Procedures
Do you want chaperones to check student rooms?  Are you “taping the door” at the hotel?  You might consider hiring a local security firm to monitor the rooms.  Just make it clear to the adults on your trip what your expectations are for them at night.
It’s Not About You
Although the trip will likely be enjoyable for everyone, adults are there to be helpful to the students, spend quality time with their child, and to promote the trip’s objectives.  Oh, one more thing – the adults are their chaperones, not their besties.  Being cool and bending the rules or favoring a son or daughter’s best friend over other students is unfair, possibly dangerous, and embarrassing when the group leaders calls out the chaperone in front of the group.
And the Big Finale…
You can’t create this memorable experience for your students without chaperones.  So, saying thank you to these important people is a big deal. Ideas abound for properly thanking your chaperones and I’ll bet your students could come up with more.  But rewarding your chaperones with a simple thank you goes a long way to let them know that their contribution was a vital part of the whole educational experience.