One hopes, as a teacher, to affect a child’s life in a positive way. What most teachers really want is to make a lasting impression and find out later that something they did or said guided a student’s life trajectory.
What I hadn’t expected was to have my life so changed by my students.
Within the last few years, thanks to grants that our district received, I had the opportunity to be a chaperone on two overnight college trips within New York State. The students were first generation immigrants and some English as a Second Language students. None of these kids had been to a college campus before. Some had never been out of the county.
The day before the first trip, I thought to myself am I an idiot? To be on an overnight trip with all of these teenagers? But I put on my big-girl pants and hoped that the worst that could happen was that I wouldn’t get a lot of sleep.
But the best that could happen blew my mind.
When I saw this sign I thought “Phew we made it.” The students, however, were astounded that the sign, the hotel, the city of Albany and SUNY Albany were welcoming them. They whooped. They cheered. They took a kazillion pictures, in the rain, in front of the sign. Individually. In groups. Friends. Selfies. Posing. Antics. I was amazed. Not one student on the trip had ever stayed in a hotel before.
As we checked in, the kids were taking a slew of pictures in the lobby. They were taking pictures of the sign on the front desk that showed the room rates.
All of our rooms were in the same corridor, so we got the students settled in. Then we looked around the hotel. As the students walked past a small ballroom, their eyes bugged. “Look, Miss…..can you imagine? Wow, if we could eat there…” And that was where we were scheduled for dinner. More pictures.
Seeing their delight was wonderful.
When the first student finished eating dinner, he walked up to me at the chaperones’ table with his dinner plate in hand and said “Where do I put this?” I replied that he should take it back to his seat and the waiter would come and take it. He just stared. And then said “You’re kidding me.”
For the first time, he was in a new city, a few hours from home, in a hotel, in a ballroom, that was in a restaurant where there were waiters.
We all went back to the rooms and most of the kids opened their doors and were running from room to room (actually quietly). One room was playing music and they were dancing. Other rooms had pizza. In another they were watching a movie. Again, I was astounded. And got ready for a night where I wouldn’t get much sleep as we started chaperone shifts. More pictures. Lots of phone calls home.
And I got texts from the kids.
- Can I go to the lobby and get something from the vending machines? (of course)
- Can we walk around the hotel to check it out again? (yes)
- Can we go outside? (absolutely not)
- How late can we stay up? (ummmm……)
And the next morning, as we were doing a final check to be sure nothing was left in the rooms, I saw that in about 4 rooms the students had made their beds.
Then on to the next college. The hotel had a bowling alley. THE HOTEL IN COBLESKILL, NY HAD A BOWLING ALLEY. No one had ever bowled. It was so much fun. Again, they took tons of pictures and posted them and called home.
They were not, however, ready for Mrs. Knowles. I had bowled before. A lot. STRIKE. My street cred went way up. #adultscandothings #enteringmyprime
The actual college visits were awesome. They were exposed to student life, laboratories, classrooms, libraries, dorm tours, sessions with admission counselors, dining halls (all you could eat….teenage boys were in alt), professors, sports, you name it. They visited state schools and private schools from New York City to rural Cobleskill, NY. Between the 2 trips, they visited 6 colleges, spent 3 nights at hotels and had experiences of a lifetime.
The week after the first trip, four students applied to SUNY Delhi. Other applications followed. Not all of the students ended up going to universities. But they all learned the process and will be able to help their own children make these decisions.
Don’t tell but I had some silly moments on the trip, as well.
These students changed my life forever.