Tag Archives: Field Trip

"For those of you that have never seen the ocean…"

Today my students got their wish.

Nearly 120 fourth and fifth grade students, at least two dozen parents, and five teachers piled into three funky old buses that bounced happily down the road to San Francisco.

Before even exiting our bus, one student exclaimed, “This is the best field trip I have ever been on!”

The initial view of the city was just as exciting as I hoped.  The students were giddy as they spotted the skyline, the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz.  They anxiously held their breath through the tunnel on Treasure Island, carefully making their wishes at the other end.  However, to my surprise, it was not just the city that excited them– it was the cows on the hillside before that, the coastal mountain range itself, (“Are those as tall as the Himalayas?”), and the glee of waving to other school children on passing busses out the window.

Of course, the Exploratorium earned its own acclaim.  Beginning with lunch outside the Palace of Fine Arts, eager children fed the ducks, the swans, and the pigeons in the perfect San Francisco March sunshine.  The exhibits soon followed, sucking them in with the truly magical promise that they would not get in trouble for touching anything.  My personal favorite was the rather low-brow, toliet-shaped drinking fountain.  While I could not bring myself to drink from it, (despite the promises of drinkability), I delighted in watching the students psyche themselves into it.

Oddly, however, it was the bus ride home that left me the most satisfied.  Despite an earlier response that we would not cross the Golden Gate Bridge, the bus driver announced a change in plans upon our departure.  To the sheer delight of the students on my bus, we did cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and it was magical.

“For those of you that have never seen the ocean,” the bus driver called out proudly, “turn and look out on your left.”

Cameras held out excitedly in the air, many of my students took in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  I wanted to cry, but I smiled instead.  Floating across the bridge on a crazy, bouncy bus full of happy children, I remembered why I decided to become a teacher.

I love the lighting and the architecture of the Exploritorium.  I hope that its new home on the waterfront is just as cool!

Brought to you by popular demand, the teacher ninja photo.  Lisa was trying to view an optical illusion with one eye when I snuck in there for the pic… Clearly, teachers are always mature adults.

My infamous happy, sparkly shoes, (key ingredients for any good day!)

More of the cool lighting
Close-ups of plants because I can’t legally show you close-ups of the children…
“We really get to go over the Golden Gate Bridge?!”
Our own magic school bus!
Happy kids, (Note: This picture is not a close-up, so I think that I can get away with posting it!  Yippee!)

End Result: Two very happy teachers! (Really, five… But we were lame and didn’t get a group teacher photo…  Insert sad face… That last part is for you, Regina!)
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Advocacy, Humility & Gratitude

It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life… 
– Abigail Adams

I read this quote on a friend’s Facebook page recently, and it touched me deeply.  It made me think about how greatness does not come out of avoiding difficulty, even though it can be very tempting to do so.  

When I first realized that I wanted to be a teacher, I found myself inventing reasons not to follow my heart.  Mostly, I was afraid of failure.  I was afraid that it would be too hard and that I would not live up to my own expectations.  It was far more comfortable to avoid failure altogether than to face it head on.  Then, somehow, I found myself doing it anyway, and I was right– it was really hard and there were many days that I failed. But, in allowing myself to fail, I also gave myself space to grow.

In becoming a teacher, I have also become an advocate for children. Some of these children come to school hungry, cold, and in need of a lot of love.  Many of these children lack the life experiences that I treasured growing up.  Accordingly, in a strange way, they have become my children, who I love, guide, and struggle with everyday.  In taking on this role, I have accepted the humility that comes with asking others to help them, and this in turn has opened my eyes to the great generosity of people all around me, creating a humbling gratitude inside of me.

A few months ago, I shared how painful it was to watch students come to school without jackets.  It made me remember the times as a child when I forgot my jacket and felt cold.  The idea that these kids weren’t forgetting jackets, but instead did not have them, broke my heart.  Nonetheless, I was amazed by how many people reached out to me after I shared this experience.  My dad even marched into my classroom the very next morning with a jacket for a student that I told him about!

A dear old friend from college, who has always had an amazingly full heart, also reached out to me.  Without being asked, she organized a fundraiser among the employees in her office, and raised enough money to buy nearly two dozen jackets for the students that were still coming to school cold.  These jackets were delivered to my house this weekend and I could not believe how beautiful they were.  The fact that strangers in another city were willing to reach into their own pockets to help the students at my school was deeply humbling.  My gratitude is immense.

The willingness of people to help without even being asked has inspired me.  It has shown me that when presented with a need, many people want to help.  This is turn has inspired me to begin asking people for help, an act that does not come easily for me.  Recently, another teacher and I set up an online fundraising site to ask friends and family to help us take our students to the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  To our amazement, we have already raised more than $600!   

Between the jackets and the field trip money, this week has inspired me to keep moving forward, even when things feel difficult.  I am deeply touched by all of the people that care enough about our students to keep them warm and give them new life experiences.  Thank you to everyone that is teaching me humility, giving me reasons for great gratitude, and helping to change the lives of students at my school!

Gigantic bags of beautiful jackets for students at my school!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Old Navy donators!

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We’re really going to San Francisco?!

Today one of my toughest students had a revelation during the middle of his parent teacher conference.  We have been planning a field trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco for a few weeks, but the news finally hit him.  “We’re really going to San Francisco?” he asked me over and over.  He was incredulous.  It was as though I told him that we were going to get on a bus and go to Disneyland.  “Are we going to come back?” he asked, after a couple of minutes of contemplation, hoping perhaps that we were either going to stay there forever or more plausibly rent a hotel room.

Listening to this student reminded me of how fortunate I was growing up.  Even when times were tough for my family, we still went to San Francisco.  It’s actually one of my family’s favorite stories, how even during the hard years, we still made our annual Christmas pilgrimage to “shop” in the city.  Of course, there was not a lot of shopping those years.  My dad would take us every year at Christmas, while my mom would take us in the summer for the joys of tourist destinations like Angel Island, Alcatraz, and Golden Gate Park.  The idea that other children did not get to go to San Francisco was foreign to me– how could you not go somewhere so cool that was only a couple of hours away?

At another parent conference this afternoon, a mom that is struggling to make ends meet because of her severe illness shared how her son and daughter have been visiting homeless people along the American River as part of a project at their church.  It is also her son’s fifth grade service project.  The kids have been praying with the homeless and collecting useful items to give to them every Friday evening.  The mother shared with me how this experience has changed her family.  She said that no matter how tough things have been for them with her illness, they still cannot help but feel immense gratitude meeting the people that live on the river in Sacramento– at least she and her family do not live outside, she added with extreme sincerity.  I felt so humbled by how genuine she was with her words.

No matter how hard my job is, it never fails to humble me.  I feel so inspired by the people that I meet.  Many of them are full of so much hope and giving despite the extreme challenges that they face.  The family of the student that was in awe of getting to go to San Francisco offered to help pay for another student to get to go too.  They do not have a lot of money, but when they heard that we needed help finding $3,000 to get everyone there, they wanted to do what they could to give more students the experience that their child is so excited about.  This was especially touching after hearing the mom who is struggling financially and physically but so generous with her heart.  She has two students in fourth and fifth grade, which will likely mean $30 total, an amount that would create a financial burden for them.  I’m so touched that in this world that feels so cold and unfriendly at times, that people still care about each other.

I was talking to my husband about all of this tonight and he shared with me his first memory of San Francisco.  Like my students, he first visited San Francisco as a fifth grader taking a field trip to the Exploratorium.  He said that he never forgot what it was like looking at the city while crossing the Bay Bridge for the first time.

I’m excited that my students will soon have this moment too.

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