Thursday was a long-awaited field trip for my students. As an ESL teacher in a 7-12 school, I am in the unique position of teaching the same core group of students year after year, and so we all get to know each other pretty well. At the beginning of each school year, they always ask me if we’re going to go on a field trip and I always start out with good intentions, but invariably I get caught up in the day to day duties of my job and I haven’t necessarily been a good teacher as far as field trips have been concerned.
This year I made a promise to myself that we’d take at least one, and I wanted to make it a good one, so I planned a long day trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with my students. We took the two-plus hour journey into the city on Thursday, April 7th and it was a great experience.
My students and I are very much like a family. We have fun together. We learn together. We argue and make up together. All of the personalities in the group are well defined and every single person has their place within the unit, and so the trip was more like a family outing than your typical school field trip.
Once we arrived in the city, we walked across Battery Park towards the streets in search of lunch, and that was where the real fun began. Perched on a pedestal near the entrance to the park stood Lady Liberty herself. She was one of those neo-peddlers who earn their wares dressed up as statues and posing for pictures with unsuspecting tourists. Of course this one was decked out in a green robe and crown.
Once the kids spotted her the cameras came out. They started clicking away as some of them made their way towards the figure to be in the photos. Lady Liberty wagged her finger in a no-no motion…she wanted money. Two of my students, Jaqi and Sonia, went to pose for a picture with the figure. Jaqi hadn’t noticed the finger wagging, and from my vantage point I could see Jaqi arguing with the statue. Within seconds, she pulled out a $5 bill and the cameras got busy again. The two of them went into model shoot mode as Lady Liberty struck funny poses for the cameras. A couple of other students got into the action and laughter was everywhere. It would be the first bit of genuine fun we’d get from the day.
After a quick lunch at Burger King, we had to head back towards the ferry to catch our boat. On the way, some of the kids were drawn to the many street vendors stationed on the sidewalk. As I crossed the street back towards the park, I turned back to see that some of the students had stopped to peruse the tables. The other teacher was with them, so I wasn’t worried about, but I knew we didn’t have much time to catch the ferry.
“C’mon, we’ve gotta catch the ferry!” I shouted back at the shopping students.
“We’re coming, we’re coming!…Ooh, Mr. Myers,” Sonia said, “look what I got.” She proceeded to show me the ten rings that she had bought from a costume jewelry peddler down the street. All I could do was roll my eyes and move on as I lead a dash to the ferry terminal. In the end, we missed the boat, the first of three we’d miss.
Even though the little shopping spree took us off our schedule, I took it in stride and just enjoyed every minute. We went to Liberty Island to see the real statue, where we had a group picture done and then went up inside the pedestal. A trip to the gift shop was the culprit for us missing our second ferry, and we ended up staying on the island until almost three o’clock, the time we were supposed to meet the bus driver at Battery Park…and we still had to make a stop at Ellis Island.
After a quick call to the driver, we hopped on the next ferry and sailed over to Ellis, where we’d only have a half an hour. We skipped the bulk of the museum and headed straight for the famous “Wall of Immigrants.” The kids did some etchings on the wall before we headed back to the ferry, which we ended up missing too. Another half-hour’s wait and we were finally headed back to where we started from. Soon we were on our way back to school.
All in all, the day was great fun. During the long ride back, some kids slept, others did homework, while still others had some more fun together. Without prodding from me, they all pitched in to clean the bus before we got back to the school. That’s the kind of kids they are. They made me proud throughout the day. We pulled into the school parking lot around 8PM and the long day was over.
The kids came in to school Friday morning exhausted and exhilarated, just like I was feeling. Many of them thanked me for the day, and I reciprocated. I had as much fun with them as they had with me and I feel honored to have given them a memorable day that they’ll keep in their minds for years to come. I love my job!
Here are some photos from the day: