Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Field Trip

My first official time as a chaperone didn’t start out so well. As Rebecca and I are standing with the other parents waiting to be escorted down to the classrooms, to be assigned our group of kids, the school principal steps out and asks me to come into her office (she was accompanied by Daniels teacher)…. Geeees, what now, I immediately regressed; my survival skills from grade school were still there and over powered me. I straightened up, tucked my shirt in and slyly slipped the gum out of my mouth and disposed of it in the potted plant near her door. It was so automatic that, looking back on today,it seemed I had no control over these actions nor the overwhelming feeling that I had done something wrong. As I entered the office there was another child,Katie, sitting at the table, who was a friend of Daniels and she was asked by the principal to leave quickly. Katie said “Hello Mr. Pippitt, I wouldn’t sit down if I were you its very uncomfortable and I think there are bugs in there” (which further added to the mystery)……..and then the principal closed the door and I felt trapped. When I was young I remember the main goal at this point was to avoid admitting to anything that may result in them calling my mother. So I felt justified in my caution. It seems that regardless of a person’s age or how much time has passed the principal of the school seems to be able to wield a great deal of power. My instinct was to stare at the floor and avoid eye contact with anyone which I curiously found difficult to overcome…..Rebecca increased her grip on my hand. I am not sure if this was in response to my tension or the tension that seemed to naturally fill a principal’s office. After an awkward pause the conversation started with the principal apologizing for not informing me that siblings were not allowed to accompany the chaperones and that it would not be fair to the other parents (who had taken the initiative to ask ahead of time) to bring their other child and were denied their request. As she was explaining this to me I was drifting off thinking to myself that it never occurred to me to ask the school if Rebecca could come along with me. She just naturally goes everywhere I go. But she did position a good point that my job as a chaperone was to watch over and be responsible for several other kids and that younger children and/or siblings could be a distraction.
As luck would have it Jeanine was home today and was planning on meeting us at the zoo and I asked if that would work as a solution and the principal looked at Daniels teacher, nodded, and said that would be okay with them. Then, with a huge sigh of relief and a smile, they both said they were glad that this all worked out well. At the risk of appearing insubordinate I smiled too and at that moment realized that this was the first time I had ever smiled inside a principal’s office or had any reason to.

In retrospect I guess they were anticipating me making a big scene and that is why they outnumbered me. As I left the office (after being dismissed) the other parents looked at me, wide eyed and somewhat anxious, wondering if they were going to be next. I exited with confidence, with a little spring in my step and a soft whistle, knowing that the principal didn’t ruin my weekend by give me any writing assignments.

The day at Southwick’s Zoo went very well. Daniel was paired with a couple of good friends Jackie and Garrett. We were able to roam the zoo at our own pace, ate lunch under a big tent. Daniel spent more time observing the flowers and plants than he did the animals. But that is what makes our outings so special.

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