I look up in procrastination, away from my paperwork, and my eye falls onto a countdown calendar that one of the children has made for me.
“Days to Disneyland” it says clearly in bold letters, surrounded by numerous smiley faces and Mickey Mouses with the striking number below it – seven. That’s a scary thought – that in just one week’s time I will be leading my first residential school trip and, worse than that, I decided to make it international.
What a stress it has been to organise too. I can see why teachers try to avoid these trips as much as possible – the hassle and aggravation it has caused are, I am certain, responsible for the new frown lines that seem to have embedded themselves onto my forehead since starting this post.
As I stare in angst at the countdown, which stares defiantly back, I begin to reflect on the lessons I have learnt so far from planning this trip.
First, when you’re planning a “fun” trip, teachers get offended when you don’t ask them to supervise (and yet when going to the local theatre, suddenly they’re all busy!).
My assumption was that as it was my trip, as a reward to myself, I could invite the teachers with whom I would want to spend three days cooped up with 40 children. I was wrong. Apparently there is a book of school trip politics involved and I’ve had some people discussing with me their “offence” at not being asked to accompany us.
Second, collect the money way, way, way in advance. It was left a little too close to the wire this time round with flaky parents forgetting to budget for their child’s trip among their excessive Christmas expenditure. This left me losing sleep at night and day-dreaming about how I could force them to pay-up without hiring some big men to knock on their doors.
Third, make a deadline for payment responsibility – or a larger deposit. Even up to last week I had students dropping out with parents prepared to lose their deposit (as it was only £40) and I was left to fill those places. Each time has meant another email correspondence with yet more details for the tour operator to amend. I’m sure they have me marked as spam by now with the amount I was sending to their inbox.
Fourth, don’t laugh during conference calls with professionals. I have never had such a flamboyant conversation as I had with the French dancer Jean-Claude who will be hosting our workshops once there, which I found a little too humorous and almost certainly lost all of my professionalism. I look forward to meeting him...
As I stare at the countdown, I focus not on the number, but on the smiley faces surrounding it, which forces me to duplicate their facial expression. Even among the new frown lines, constant walks to the finance office and phone calls to parents nagging about money it suddenly dawns on me that I have 40 students excited about enrichment that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to partake in if it wasn’t for me.
And as if by Disney magic, an email hits my inbox from the tour operator: “Please find attached your receipt of payment, we now have all necessary documentation. We look forward to seeing you soon.”
Our NQT diarist this year is a teacher of drama and dance at a school in Essex.