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What is your opinion of school travel & school exchanges?

What is your opinion of school travel & school exchanges?

Apr 5th, 2006, 04:25 PM
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Okay, amp. Understood. Peace...
Guy18 is offline  
Apr 5th, 2006, 04:47 PM
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amp322 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 07:11 AM
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I started this thread several months ago, and I feel I should mention someting that transpired with another language group in my school in June, to illustrate the issues that are inherent here.

As I mentioned previously, we offer exchanges to four countries, Russia, France, Germany and Costa Rica (we also offer Latin but do not currently have any related exchanges or trips). I run the Russian end of things, and while we have had our fair share of difficulties, we have been okay as of late.

Unfortunately the French have not been so lucky. After what was perceived as a highly successful exchange, where no problems arose and kids had a great experience (this was in April)- an anonymous letter was sent to our superintendent in June. The letter described how expensive the trip was, and how the mother was able to go online and plan a trip for much less $$ herself.

This mother mentioned the price of plane tickets and how there was a large difference in price (about $800) between what she had paid and what she felt should be the charge.

Obviously this mother was a bit delusional, trying to compare the prices based purely on plane tickets, not thinking about travel within the country, tour guides, food, incidentals...

Nonetheless the French teachers are the only teachers in our school who have always built into the price of the student trips the expense of the teachers staying in single rooms in Parisian hotels (the excuse has been that the French teachers live in small apts. and cannot host, so therefore they must stay in hotels).

My issue is that the parent really does not see the fact that the teachers should not have to pay for their own accomodations while chaperoning an exchange. This is the same problem we are running into, as prices continue to rise.

Unfortunately, our superintendent (who is normally very supportive) came to our dept. supervisor (who wants for the exch. to continue) and questioned our finances. So now we may very well have to receive pre-approval for every tip to the tour guide, metro pass, etc.

THIS is the reason we are seriously considering changing our program for next year (this school year we are hosting a group from Russia). Without support, why should we give so much of ourselves?

I am posting this after reading about Baldworth's experiences on EF tours (which is an option we were considering) and about the explorica tours.

It feels like maybe the time for student travel is ending.

katya_NY is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 07:47 AM
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Hi Katya,

It seems to me that a reasonable response (on your superintendent's part) would be to set out the value added by the teacher/organizer/chaperone in terms of planning and organization. Perhaps the superintendent really hasn't thought about everything that goes into it and needs some educating on the topic. After that, let parents decide whether they want to pay the cost of a trip that includes a room for the teacher -- which is still less money, I'm sure, than an entire family. For goodness sake! If that anonymous letter writer can plan a cheaper trip herself, then let her. That should be the end of it.

I think it's too bad if a program that's running smoothly is derailed over something like this.

I'm not saying the teachers should "have" to do anything -- I'm just saying if they are willing to continue, it is a real shame to let some anonymous complainer sabotage their efforts.

Barbara_in_FL is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 08:09 AM
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My DH, who grew up in Quebec, did an exchange with a school in France when he was 10 years old. His group went there for 2 weeks, then the French students came here.

He has been in touch with his "twin" ever since and he's 32 now. He has visited him in France, his twin visited us here in Canada. We attended his twin's wedding a few years ago, and him and his wife attended ours last year.

The friendship that forged not only between my DH and his friend, but also between the parents of both, is invaluable. Plus my DH has seen parts of France he might not have had he not done the exchange.
pavfec is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 08:20 AM
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Hi Barbara-

I think that you are right- the reality of what goes into the exchange had probably never occurred to the sup., and that is why she raised the issue. I think that for both my dept. supr. and the superintendent, these exchanges are seen as a great advantage of studying FL in our school, and yet another accolade- but the truth is, they do not really appreciate the exchanges for what they are- yet.

We *THINK* we know who wrote the letter, and she signed it on the whole from the parents without discussing it with the group at large.

Strangely enough, if it is her, she has brought her children to France several times, and they often stay for weeks during the summer with friends of the family. Of course, this is not in Paris and it does not involve touring,etc.- so therefore it is significantly less $$ than the exchange.

I was surprised to hear the French teachers suspicion- first off, you know how much the trip will cost when you sign up. Why send the child if you know right then that you can provide an opportunity for less $$? Strange.

I do hope that the teachers were not too disheartened by this- frankly, it was an attack at them. And I do agree with pavfec- some of my best Russian friends are people I met as an exchange student when we were just 15-16. There is value to it, but this value seems to be undervalued by many.

katya_NY is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 08:25 AM
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I'm so sorry to hear of your recent difficulties about something in which you truly believe.

It is a fair cop for parents to compare costs and make decisions about what approach to something offers them the best value for their buck. For some parents, perhaps the conclusion IS that they get better value taking their kids abroad themselves.

That said, I must second Barbara's post. I also think this is a decision that quite properly every parent has to make for themselves. It is unreasonable of the parent in question to insist that somehow, her/his evaluation that the trip was a ripoff would be shared by every parent. Even more unsettling is his/her implying that the teacher-chaperones were/are somehow exploiting the situation by having their expenses reimbursed. Chaperoning students might be a more interesting or stimulating type of work to standing in a classroom, but as any tour guide on a commercially operated bus tour will bear witness, chaperoning is work, not a vacation. Even when expenses are reimbursed, as they almost universally are for tour guides.

I wish you well in resolving the crisis.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 08:36 AM
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I am a bit befuddled...

Are you talking high school or college?

I believe the two are completely different. Ok, maybe not in maturity so much, but the two are structured so differently...in terms of finances, obligations, work required, and admissions procedures.
E_M is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 08:57 AM
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Okay, the "Masher" and his/her comments will obviously be pulled by the editors, but I hope that it will not end this discussion, as it is helpful for my program.

The groups that we bring are high school students.

As far as:
"Chaperoning students might be a more interesting or stimulating type of work to standing in a classroom"-

I think that ANY teachers who would agree with this statement need to leave the profession. Post haste. Teaching is anything but boring.

That said, it is different than teaching lead a group, surely. It is a very different type of responsibility, but one important point is the payment point. Tour guides get paid to do their jobs, whereas in my school district the exchanges are somewhat expected and do require a great deal of work from teachers for $0. In my case, I have to plan the program, and locate a substitute (if I can) who can teach my classes for the 2 weeks I am away. If I am able to get a Russian sub, I have to leave 2 weeks of minute-by-minute lesson plans (which aren't always adhered to). I am also in the position to TRUST whoever is coming into my classroom to treat the students well and not spend the class period talking about getting drunk
(from personal experience).

I do agree that parents have every right to research and find other ways to travel and bring their children to Europe themselves. That would be ideal, and I think most people would agree with that. The only aspect that is missing when families travel & stay in hotels is the direct connection with a local person and seeing their daily life. Without that, it isn't the same experience.

As you can see, I am very torn about this. As it stands right now, we are hosting the group from Piter in the fall, and are not continuing with the exchange as it exists now (in the Russian dept.). I HOPE that we will find some happy medium.

katya_NY is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 09:08 AM
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The parent who wrote the letter needs to understand that you are not hosting a sightseeing expedition, but an educational excursion, which has additional fees (lecturers, tour guides, etc.) At least, I am assuming that if you are going for educational purposes, you are looking for tour guides who can interject whatever educational goals you have into the tour. And those have additional costs. Parents (well, anyone, for that matter), who refuse to sign letters, should not be taken seriously. After all, how do you really know that they are a concerned party??

My opinion is, which I saw elsewhere here, is that highschool children should go sightseeing with their PARENTS, and study abroad with their school.
E_M is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 10:00 AM
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I never had the opportunity to travel while in high school...our public school system did not have that option. I have had several friends that did and their experiences really echo the majority of responses here...a trip more designed to "party" in a foreign place than understanding the culture or care to.

I am very blessed in that I am able to stay home full-time and homeschool my children....very blessed means working my tail off to do it...I had a career for 8 years prior to staying home that let us save enough money and be good stewards of our earnings to afford me staying at home...I have a very hard working husband...we keep our cars beyond the 10 year mark and change the oil ourselves..I could go on..I just don't want folks saying "That's fine for you but we couldn't afford it." We had a budget of $2500 a year for vacations...I decided we would spend $4,000 every other year and $1,000 on the other...Disney cost us $4,000...my trip to England for 10 days is costing $4,000! Granted, I've taken every deal for doubling skymiles I can and 4 ff tickets helped! My kids are 11, 8 & 7...we school classically (meaning the trivium) but in a Charlotte Mason way (meaning lots of reading reading reading and arts)...we have spent 4 years studying world history, we've read Robin Hood by Pyle, Adam of the Road, Door in the WAll by D'Angeli, Otto of the Silver Hand, Sword in the STone, Chronicles (heck anything by CS Lewis) etc. biographies from Roman Britain leaders to Churchill..covered master painters in each historical timeframe...They know who Joshua Reynolds is, George Stubbs, can compare Degas and Seurat...and they're only 7, 8 & 11..they LOVE it! This trip to England will mean so much more to them because of the time and materials we've invested in making it and what England has to offer them...the treasures in the British Museum will bring back 4 years of "Oh Yeah!! I remember Hammurabi!" But, if you don't take the time to really get them invested in learning about the culture you won't get much back by just putting them on a plane with a group of their peers who have not been prepped either. When I finish homeschooling, I hope to use my degrees and apply my love for learning in the school setting....these kids deserve better.

ma23peas is offline  
Aug 12th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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EM: Yes, our exchange is educationally based- all of the students who participate are in their 4th or 5th year of Russian study, which in our district means they are taking 1st or 2nd yr. college level language.

We do have talented guides (of course, we have had exceptions to that rule, too! But for the most part, they are great)- and the students attend speciality classes in the school we exchange with (in addition to visiting other classes, and of course keeping up with their work from our HS).

Our students have a behavioral contract, which I know is considered somewhat controversial on this site. I do agree, traveling with family does eliminate this need. Frankly- for me, having a sip of wine in France is not a big deal, and for my future, non existent children : ) that would be fine. But in this school situation- it is different.

Tara- I applaud you for your efforts to economize where you can to be able and stay home & teach your children.

My friend & former co-worker is expecting her 2nd child next week (!) and has intentions to home school, or work at the local Montessori school with the children.

Her husband is a CPA, so their financial situation is a bit different from mine (my BF is a bartender/certified, unemployed Elem. ed. teacher- don't get me started on this injustice!) but this is a choice they have made. My hope is that maybe (?) she'll teach my kids someday, too!

katya_NY is offline  
Aug 13th, 2006, 05:18 AM
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I am a recently retired FL teacher. In my 33 years one of the most rewarding things for me was travelling to Europe with students. My wife and I took 5 student tours, believe it or not all with EF. I learned valuable lessons with the 1st tour: 1- Keep the numbers down(20-22) 2- Keep the number of adults down(more problems with adults than students) 3- Take a customized trip so you're not thrown in with other groups 4- Even though my tours involved students, the tours were NOT school functions. Therefore no Board approval was needed, it was my trip with my rules.- and, god forbid, if there was an "incident", you were not risking your job. Many of these former students, now adults have returned to Europe, some with their wives and children. I have received several post cards from them during their travels. Some believe that High School students can't fully "appreciate" the experience, maybe some can't but why DWELL on them. Instead I prefer to look at those students who DID "appreciate" it, and having wetted their appetite, will now further explore the world. Katya, in your very 1st paragraph- was it worth all the work? My answer-every single minute of it!
Beatle is offline  
Aug 13th, 2006, 06:28 AM
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Thank you for sharing your experiences. I agree, there is a bond with the students I have traveled with-these kids who have seen me with 2 hours of sleep on the overnight train- no sleep after a flight to Russia- they have seen me at my worst, but it is a bonding experience. Interpersonally, it is a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately, my school board does not allow teachers to bring students overseas without board approval.

I know it seems that they are overstepping their bounds, and they probably are... but there was a bad experience a few years ago with a drunken chaperone who missed her flight home with the kids(!)- and the kids were so used to this behavior, they all made it. This person obviously is no longer employed in our district- but nonetheless the rule sticks.

I suppose I could TRY to contact kids outside of school hours, arrange a meeting somewhere other than school, etc... but parents are so used to the fact that the school board approves trips, it is one thing they expect to hear.

From reading Baldworth's trip report, it does seem that good things can happen with these EF tours, so I think maybe my co-chaperone and I will look into it a bit more, esp. if it means less prep work for us. I do worry about the lack of connection with a host family though. Any thoughts, anyone?

katya_NY is offline  
Aug 13th, 2006, 07:44 PM
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"From reading Baldworth's trip report, it does seem that good things can happen with these EF tours,"

Now that the story is finished, I got the complete opposite impression; the trip sounded like an unmitigated disaster from start to finish! Is that the kind of trip you want to lead?
kswl is offline  
Aug 13th, 2006, 08:30 PM
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I think that realistically speaking, Baldworth had a good trip. The reality of traveling with people you do not know is not always pleasant, but I think that he was left with positive feelings overall... I hope I am not mistaken!

For us, I think things would be a bit different- not too many teens would be interested in the Russian EF tour, aside from those who study Russian. I'm not sure about this, as I have received info. from several of these similar companies- but I believe that Russia is a "special plans only" tour- they don't have set dates, etc...

I will do more research. I am curious to find out if anyone has taken one of these tours, and made local friends (like Baldworth did with the tour guide). Maybe this is how to make that interpersonal connection?

katya_NY is offline  
Aug 14th, 2006, 07:47 AM
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Katya, to me, my post supported you in your endeavours. That I look for some balance, and anticipate such arguments as might be made on the other side, is something I would do no matter what position I take on something. Acknowledging the odd point to one's opponent is just part of civilized debate, it is not to be taken as somehow a concession of one's ultimate conclusion (which I again stress was in your favour - though one would never think so, reading your response to my post!)

You are completely within your rights to challenge or rebut even such points as I did grant to your opponents, but not to make any acknowledgement of my support of you, in such context, sounds defensive and churlish. Look, I'm just a messageboard hack, but when you deal with your employers/parents, resist the temptation to be so aggressively defensive. It won't help.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Aug 14th, 2006, 09:00 AM
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Sue: I am sorry that you took what I said as "aggressively defensive". I am a bit concerned about people who feel that leading groups overseas is the same as going on vacation- there are several people in my school district who have given me the "it must be nice" routine.

As far as my boss is concerned, it is a feather in her cap to have all of the exchanges we have going on at school, so therefore she is in a place of trying to convince us to stay with the school exchange. Contractually, we have no such obligations, so if it ends, she has no control.

It was noted in our end of the year evaluations, though, that we were "encouraged" to continue with sharing these "cultural experiences" with our students... I asked that it be re-worded.

katya_NY is offline  
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