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The ins and outs of choosing, training and working with chaperones

A great chaperone can make all the difference on a student performance tour. But the inverse is true as well – a challenging chaperone can be frustrating, and take your focus away from your group’s experience. We’ve worked with every variety of chaperone over the years, so we know what to look for when choosing a chaperone AND how to prepare them for your group’s next trip.

How to choose chaperones

Before you can choose your chaperones, you need to make sure you’re familiar with your school’s chaperone policy (if one exists). Are chaperones limited to teachers only? Will chaperones need background checks to participate? Do your homework on what’s allowed/required at your school before putting an APB out for chaperones.

If you’ve done some prep work to build excitement about the trip in both your classroom and school at large, you’ll more than likely have several volunteers offer to chaperone. However, if you find yourself low on options, ask your fellow educators as well as your group’s boosters – this could be a fantastic opportunity to reward a long-time supporter of your program with a trip.

We highly recommend utilizing an application process that includes interviews and, if possible, a “test trip.” Inviting potential chaperones to join your group on a day trip or overnight trip will give you tremendous insight into how those applicants will fare on a longer adventure.

Expert tip: Avoid applicants with strong/overbearing personalities or volunteers who aren’t physically up for the tasks.

Chaperone expectations

Once you’ve chosen your chaperones, make sure you’ve laid out your expectations for the experience. Here are a few guidelines we recommend you communicate clearly:

  • You are the boss/El Capitan/commander and your decisions and rules are final. No making up new rules that are more or less strict.
  • You are expected to be with the group for all activities and perform the duties that have been assigned to you. Do not make other plans during the tour.
  • You set the example. Don’t break rules, show up late, etc. (This can be a common problem.)
  • Make sure your school’s drug and alcohol policy is clear for chaperones – it applies to them as well. Don’t forget tobacco.
  • Chaperones should not be involved in discipline. Issues should be reported to and handled by the director. This aligns with most school policies.
  • Chaperones should not favor their own students or their friends or their children.

Expert tip: It’s best to have a mix of rookie and experienced chaperones if possible.

How chaperones can help

Chaperones can be helpful in so many ways on tour – they just need to know what their roles and responsibilities are. Here are a few possible roles on tour:

Head chaperone– This role will not exist for every trip – you’ll only assign this role if you have a chaperone that you really trust. This person will be in charge of the rest of the chaperones and can act as a liaison between you and the others.

Room checks– You can either assign a few rooms to every chaperone or have just a few chaperones responsible for room checks. We recommend that male chaperones do not enter female rooms and vice versa. Room checks should also be done in pairs.

Bus captain– In charge of counting the students each time the bus is boarded, distributing tickets and vouchers to that bus, and ensuring students keep the bus clean throughout the trip. She also makes sure nothing is left when leaving for the last time. This is especially important for flying groups, who may not have the same bus each day.

We’ve developed a Chaperone Guide to provide our clients with all the tools and resources they need to assemble their chaperone dream teams – from sample applications, chaperone contracts, responsibility worksheets and everything in between. If you’d like more guidance on choosing and training great chaperones, just let us know– we’d be happy to help.

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