A good chaperone can really help to make a trip run smoothly. An poor chaperone can hurt your chances of even traveling again in the future.
COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS: Before accepting a volunteer’s offer to chaperone, make sure they have a clear understanding of their obligations. This might include trip price, if they’re sharing a room or bed, whether they’ll have time away from students, and school rules they will be expected to uphold…before and during the trip.
Ensure chaperones understand their role. If at times they’ll be solely responsible for a small group, are they comfortable with that? Chaperones need to be active participants and serve in loco parentis—acting as each student’s parent. Ask if they’re comfortable supervising children, willing to adhere to the rules and not make exceptions for their own child, physically able to take part in scheduled activities, and able to put away cellphones and model technology expectations for students.
Familiarize chaperones with all rules applying to students—from the school and tour company and as local customs dictate: dress code, public displays of affection, language, cellphone use, curfew and whether they can leave the hotel. Discuss how infractions will be handled.
DISCOVER STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES: Match expertise to your needs. Are volunteers experienced with transportation or leading smaller groups? Seasoned travelers may help navigate airports and subway stations and have good instincts in unexpected situations. Inexperienced travelers may need ample guidance.
INVOLVE NON-TRAVELING PARENTS: Long before you travel, make sure the chaperone has spoken with the parents of the students they will be overseeing. If any students have a medical condition, chaperones must know symptoms to look for, where a student’s medication is located, and when it’s appropriate to call for emergency services.
BACKGROUND CHECKS EARLY: Check your school or organizational chaperone policy before offering anyone the opportunity. In some school districts or areas, chaperones trips must submit to criminal background checks and fingerprinting, just like staff members. In many districts, screenings are mandatory, even if not required by law.
MORE COMMUNICATIONS: Use technology to assist your chaperones. Many free messaging programs can be used with local Wi-Fi. WhatsApp and Remind are popular apps in the US. Have everyone download the app you’ve chosen, create groups based on the whole and by chaperone, and use the app for everything from sending reminders to connecting with someone needing assistance. If splitting into small groups, it may be helpful to create a digital document that contains each student’s picture, passport information, parent contacts, and other important information to aid the chaperone in case of an emergency.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Have multiple mandatory trip meetings long before you travel. Chaperones (and parents in general) love to feel involved and ‘in the know’. Be sure all chaperones have a complete itinerary provided by GTC as this has all the hotel and contact information for the on-site GTC tour representative. Review the district’s policies on taking photos of students and sharing them on social media.
The Ideal Chaperone …
- Is willing to attend all meetings with students and parents and help with fundraising.
- Sees the importance of the schedule yet is flexible.
- Is punctual.
- Is respected by the students.
- Will follow rules and guidelines.
- Is adventurous and doesn’t mind making a fool of himself or herself, which can help encourage reluctant students to take part in activities.
- Models lifelong-learner behavior: curiosity, open-mindedness, respect for other cultures, desire to learn from each opportunity.
- Has a sense of humor, but isn’t too “buddy-buddy” with students.
This article was compiled from various sources including Teach & Travel Magazine and the author.