Group discipline is hard enough when you are in your classroom, but when you are at school help is just down the hall in the principal's office. When on a group trip, often the decision on what to do will come down to you as the leader. The best way to protect yourself from the stress of such a decision is to make sure that your school or organization has a very straightforward conduct policy and that it specifies what the consequences are if these rules are broken. It is often not enough just to state this policy verbally. Put it in writing and require that all participants and their parents sign off on it before you leave. The leader should take copies of the signed documents along on the trip.
Once you have the conduct agreements signed, cross your fingers and say a little prayer that you won't need to use them. Without a doubt, if you travel a lot with minors, sooner or later you will have a problem. Hopefully your policy has different levels of consequences for different infractions, but whatever the policy dictates is what you must do. Even if it means hiring a cab and taking the student to the airport at 6am to be sent home for hiding cigarettes in her suitcase. It is when this ultimate scenario plays out that the true group leader is tested. No group leader wants to send home a participant or a student, especially when this will result in additional expense for the student's family or for the sponsoring organization. Failing to follow through and execute the requirements of the conduct policy will literally and completely destroy your reputation as a leader. It might hurt in the short term, but stick to your principals and always follow through with any consequences you present. You will be a stronger and more respected leader as a result.
About The Author
Chad Criswell is a well regarded high school music teacher. He has over a decade of experience planning and coordinating trips for school and non-profit groups of all sizes. He is a respected resource person for band, choir, and other activity groups across the country.
Mr. Criswell hosts a web site dedicated to school and non-profit group travel located at http://www.teachertravelguide.com.