One partly cloudy day last week, I enjoyed chaperoning a field trip for my granddaughter’s fourth-grade class. When she called to ask if I would join her and the students, I immediately said yes—as fear began to rise up in my gut. The trip with her class was to Bouverie Preserve near Glen Ellen, California. Spring is the most beautiful season in California with all of the green and dense patches of wildflowers that bloom before our summer heat turns everything golden brown.
I had never been a chaperone before,
always leaving that duty to my wife when our daughter was growing up. My wife had the more flexible schedule, and I would have had to request time off from work. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) Being retired, I now have more flexibility, and when my grandkids ask, I usually do what I can.
Spending time with young people can be exhausting and invigorating. They never disappoint, though, and always give me hope for generations to come. They act just like we did at such a young age. Sure, they may use language we were taught to avoid—maybe even shockingly so. But we shocked our parents, too. And, yes, four ten-year-old girls (making up the group I was assigned to) still giggled just like they would have back in my day. Their laughter was infectious.
The docent assigned to our group during our visit to Bouverie—I’ll call her Ms. N—was a good sport. As a retired schoolteacher, she knew how to let the girls have fun and how to rein them in when needed. She also knew her stuff about the environment. I spend a lot of time outdoors, but I never get down and dirty looking at nature at a micro level. Who doesn’t like a woman who knows turkey tail fungi (mushroom) from “false” turkey tail and can name a variety of other saprophytes?
The girls squealed and cooed when gently handling slender salamanders no bigger than their little fingers. They rolled over dead logs and large stones, and they happily picked up newts, while Ms. N wet the girls hands with a handy little spray bottle to protect the amphibious critters. They also learned the definition of riparian area and about native cultures living and respecting this land long before our arrival.
I was surprisingly pleased by my experience with the fourth graders. It was nothing at all as I had feared. The kids didn’t chew me up and spit me out as I had worried. That’s the way it is with fear: outcomes are never quite what you think they’ll be. I give their teacher—I’ll call him Mr. B—a lot of the credit for that. He had a great rapport with his class and what I’d call respectful control of the students.
Those of us from my generation probably remember the classic Cheech and Chong comedy skit where a nasally voiced teacher is trying to get control of her class and is yelling, “Class! Class!! CLASS!!!” Or we might remember Lt. Col. Henry Blake trying to get the attention of his MASH unit when Cpl. Radar O’Reilly quiets everyone with a simple, low-volume “Attention.”
Mr. B’s methods were impressively simple and respectful, and he taught respect. He had a way of getting the class’s attention without ever raising his voice, and at the beginning of the day, he made his expectations of everyone in the class for the duration of the trip very clear and upfront.
Speaking as this adventurous grandpa, I feel very honored to have been asked to join my granddaughter’s field trip, and I remain steadfastly positive and upbeat about our young people and their futures. And I have the utmost respect for the adults that guide our children through their young years, especially those that teach respect for other people and for the wide wonders of the great outdoors.
If you have a chance, check out Bouverie Preserve at www.egret.org, and pay them a visit.