This letter comes from a pre-k teacher who prefers to remain anonymous -- and we can understand why!
Dear Let Grow:
Did you know that bus trips have been effectively eliminated for public school pre-kindergarteners in NYC? Despite children having made it to museums, theaters, puppet shows, etc. for decades without incident, some beaurocrat decided that bus travel as it existed is just too dangerous, which leaves us only access to trips within walking distance (quite a challenge for those of us who teach in the Bronx).
Lest you think that these walking trips are viewed by administrators, teachers and parents as safe alternatives, rest assured that there is plenty of hysteria surrounding them as well. Will the kids be crossing streets??? Will there be at least one adult for every four children??? Are all the walkie talkies functioning properly and does their reach extend to the destination??? Are there enough bright orange safety vests for each adult??? Will it be too cold or windy??? Will the ground be too wet???
My assurances that a planned “trip” to the post office across the street from our school in February did not constitute a high-risk activity did nothing to assuage their terror. An administrator even raised the concern that if the children are allowed to go behind the counter to see the inner workings of postal service, a package might fall on one of them. We were encouraged to consider inviting a postal worker to visit our school instead.
Not surprisingly, trips to the local playground have become dystopian nightmares, with every activity seen primarily in terms of the potential for harm. Scraped knees and other such occurrences -- once seen as a given result of healthy childhood play -- are now viewed as evidence of failure of oversight. Parents insist on a thorough accounting of the exact circumstances under which the tiniest nick or scrape occurred and demand to know which adult will be held accountable. Three-page forms, which take at least 25 minutes to complete, must be filled out, no matter how minor the “injury.” Parents must be contacted through phone calls or notes home, even if we’re going to see them at the end of the day. It’s no small wonder that many teachers choose to skip outdoor playtime altogether.
The other wonder is how can teachers stand this kind of scrutiny, distrust and catastrophizing? And how can kids get to experience the world, when this is the default reasoning?
And how about you, readers? Have the field trips rules or destinations changed at your school? What's going on out there?
Photo of Field Museum by Jtesla16 at wts wikivoyage