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Effectively Using Your Chaperone

Instruction

Interested in doubling your teaching effectiveness while finishing the day less tired at the same time? Your relationship with your chaperone or an extra adult can make or break the teaching experience in an outdoor setting. Though it’s easy to want to ignore this extra help and manage students on your own, it’s more effective and more enjoyable to establish a good relationship with clearly defined roles for your chaperone. Here are some tips to use your chaperone to their highest potential.

Start your time together off right with a solid introduction and expectations. Assure your chaperone of your qualifications and experience (work, education, certifications, etc.). Ask your chaperone about their background and familiarity with the students, especially for concerns around specific student needs. Set the clear expectation that you will be the lead instructor for the week and that their primary role is to assist you and the students. Remind the second adult that teaching in an outdoor setting challenges student concentration and that they can help students re-direct focus quietly and effectively by standing near or moving between students, making eye contact, tapping on shoulders, etc. without distracting the whole group.

Check-in regularly with your chaperone. Another set of adult eyes are a powerful asset for picking up on group needs, especially when you are at the front of the group or concentrating on teaching. Chaperones may also fill you in on any issues that arose when you were not with the students, as well as information about how to better interact with students and what the students are used to. Checking-in may help the group as a whole have a better experience and give your chaperone a sense of worth as part of the team. Great times to check-in with your chaperone might include during student free exploration, at lunch, or while students are engaged in an activity. Make time to take advantage of this important resource!

Establish when and how your chaperone should interact with the group. Give explicit instructions when you want the chaperone to participate with students (forming a circle, for instance) and when they should just observe (during student team building). Make your expectation clear at the beginning of each activity. For example, instructing that the “students will be able to get one sentence of advice from each adult” recognizes that the chaperone has wisdom and perspective that may be helpful to students, but also sets the expectation that such interference should be minimal and at the student’s request. Give chaperones that have a hard time holding back a job. For example, you might ask them to write down one positive thing each student says during a team building exercise or make tally marks for each time a student participates in a group conversation.

Use your chaperone to make your life easier. Need to figure out a last minute adjustment to your day? Forgot something? Teach your chaperone (and group) a game and leave your chaperone in charge to keep it going, while you prepare for your next move. Eliminate the bottleneck of students showing you their work by letting the group know they need to get your chaperone’s check-off before letting you see what they’ve done. After modeling for the group, make your chaperone in charge of snack, hand-sanitizer, or gear to speed up transitions, meals and other logistics crucial to a successful day.  

Clear expectations and communication are key for students and adults. It’s not enough to just plan for your students. Purposefully plan for chaperone engagement for a successful and enjoyable week.

Interested in doubling your teaching effectiveness while finishing the day less tired at the same time? Your relationship with your chaperone or an extra adult can make or break the teaching experience in an outdoor setting. Though it’s easy to want to ignore this extra help and manage students on your own, it’s more effective and more enjoyable to establish a good relationship with clearly defined roles for your chaperone. Here are some tips to use your chaperone to their highest potential.

Start your time together off right with a solid introduction and expectations. Assure your chaperone of your qualifications and experience (work, education, certifications, etc.). Ask your chaperone about their background and familiarity with the students, especially for concerns around specific student needs. Set the clear expectation that you will be the lead instructor for the week and that their primary role is to assist you and the students. Remind the second adult that teaching in an outdoor setting challenges student concentration and that they can help students re-direct focus quietly and effectively by standing near or moving between students, making eye contact, tapping on shoulders, etc. without distracting the whole group.

Check-in regularly with your chaperone. Another set of adult eyes are a powerful asset for picking up on group needs, especially when you are at the front of the group or concentrating on teaching. Chaperones may also fill you in on any issues that arose when you were not with the students, as well as information about how to better interact with students and what the students are used to. Checking-in may help the group as a whole have a better experience and give your chaperone a sense of worth as part of the team. Great times to check-in with your chaperone might include during student free exploration, at lunch, or while students are engaged in an activity. Make time to take advantage of this important resource!

Establish when and how your chaperone should interact with the group. Give explicit instructions when you want the chaperone to participate with students (forming a circle, for instance) and when they should just observe (during student team building). Make your expectation clear at the beginning of each activity. For example, instructing that the “students will be able to get one sentence of advice from each adult” recognizes that the chaperone has wisdom and perspective that may be helpful to students, but also sets the expectation that such interference should be minimal and at the student’s request. Give chaperones that have a hard time holding back a job. For example, you might ask them to write down one positive thing each student says during a team building exercise or make tally marks for each time a student participates in a group conversation.

Use your chaperone to make your life easier. Need to figure out a last minute adjustment to your day? Forgot something? Teach your chaperone (and group) a game and leave your chaperone in charge to keep it going, while you prepare for your next move. Eliminate the bottleneck of students showing you their work by letting the group know they need to get your chaperone’s check-off before letting you see what they’ve done. After modeling for the group, make your chaperone in charge of snack, hand-sanitizer, or gear to speed up transitions, meals and other logistics crucial to a successful day.  

Clear expectations and communication are key for students and adults. It’s not enough to just plan for your students. Purposefully plan for chaperone engagement for a successful and enjoyable week.

About the Author
Jessa Fowler
Author: Jessa Fowler

Jessa Fowler, B.A., M.ED Candidate at the University of Washington Graduate Student at University of Washington

Jessa is passionate about learning and teaching sustainable agriculture for community development. With experience ranging from facilitating immersive outdoor learning experiences at IslandWood, launching a school garden program and developing supporting curriculum in rural Appalachia, and teaching 5th grade in inner city east coast, Jessa strives to build relationships with both students and adults to create positive change.