Emotional Lessons on 18 Day Field Trips

several middle schoolers making different emotional faces

Arthur Morgan School’s  18 day field trips make for powerful learning experiences that help middle schoolers see real world examples of what they learn in the classroom. They also learn other things as well.  Here is Rey, a ninth grader, explaining some of the unexpected lessons that come from a long road trip.

“At AMS, our 18 day field trips are amazing. We learn so much and see so much and we’re basically traveling around with our friends and really, what’s better than that?  In reality though, there’s a lot more to it.

“In my experience, one of two things will usually happen. The first and more unlikely circumstance is that the trip will go perfectly, without any struggles and everyone will come out of the experience pretty much the same. That’s fine if that’s what you’re looking for. The much more likely circumstance is that besides traveling and learning about whatever subject you are learning about (Climate Change, Plastics, The Civil Rights Movement, etc.), your entire trip will completely and entirely fall apart. I’m talking breaking up with your boyfriend, the entire trip catches the flu, or your first unrequited love sort of falling apart. I mean absolute deconstruction of anything solid or stable you thought you knew.”

No Where to Run

middle schoolers looking bored on a bus“There’s something else different about it. It’s not like the stereotypical “if this doesn’t go the way I want it, I can just ignore/avoid you” type of situation. When you get into a fight with someone or spread rumors about them or decide to reveal the feelings you’ve been hiding for months to them, you can’t just  run away. You don’t just get to go home at the end of the day.

“Instead you must sit in a  bus with them for the rest of the trip.  Only at the very end can you go home and think about how it could have gone different.  Maybe you shouldn’t have said something to someone else, or maybe you should have spent less time moping and more time doing anything else. You could actually make something of yourself and realize these really are the best years of your life.”

Facing our Emotions

“Anyway, enough drama! As I was saying, on 18 days there is nowhere to run or hide so we are forced to face things head on. We not only need to face other people, but also our own EMOTIONS! When we feel sad or angry or nostalgic we aren’t just able to skip away from it as easily as we usually can. We need to rely on each other, the staff as well as our peers. We need to dig deep and ask, “What can I do about it right here and right now?”

middle schoolers in a group looking perturbed

“I’m not going to lie, that’s difficult. Being vulnerable even with people you know and trust is always scary. Depending on what’s going on around you and how intensely you feel, it sometimes feel like you’re trapped and just waiting until the trip is over when you can go back to your own bed and sleep like you’ve never slept before.”

Learning About Ourselves

“I know this all sounds very intense and not very fun, but they are also really important. It’s true that the hard times are hard, but we get through them together, as a family.  As a result, we find each other again, we love each other harder and we trust each other more. We know that we’ve been through some of our worst times and we don’t have to do it alone. We learn more about each other, but also we learn about ourselves and personally that is one of the most difficult, scary things to learn about.

“When we all get back to school it is one of the happiest times all year because we all have a heightened sense of safety, trust, community and vulnerability. It is my belief that to truly love anyone –including yourself- you have to be able to love them at their best as well as their worst. Once you can do that, the rest is easy.”

-by Rey Sadoff