by Lance Harvey
Setting the Right Tone For Student Discipline
Ensuring a safe and fun learning environment on the road
As a teacher, you know the importance of setting expectations for discipline in order to run an effective classroom. The traveling classroom, however, poses a different set of challenges. In an exploratory environment, students need to be given more freedom but in a structured manner consistent with the pace and nature of the tour.
Balancing discipline with personal growth
Your students may be experiencing many of their firsts- leaving home or riding on a plane, sharing a hotel room with classmates, exploring a big city, shopping for souvenirs, experiencing new cultures and so many more. In fact some of your students’ most life-changing moments will occur during these non-textbook moments. You certainly don’t want to stifle these learning moments but must set a tone for discipline for the good of the entire group and be prepared to enforce those rules on tour.
Set the rules and expectations at the first tour meeting
- Following all group leader, tour director and chaperone instructions
- Being on time for every event on tour
- The nightly curfew times and rules
- Never leaving the group without obtaining permission
- Buddy System- Students must remain with a buddy at all times
- Requirements of appropriate dress and conduct at each event
- Following rules set by hotels and bus companies
- No tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol or sexual conduct
- Treating all persons on the tour with respect, especially in situations with consolidated groups
- If the tour is school-sponsored, following all school guidelines
- Rules and expectations related to cell phones and ipods and other electronic devices
Common disciplinary violations you should anticipate
- Going off alone without a buddy or permission
- Going into rooms of the opposite sex
- Disrupting others on the bus or at the hotel with loud talking
- Arriving late at meeting spots
- Violating the zero tolerance drug or alcohol policy
For students who do not follow rules, consequences might include:
- Calling the parents
- Having the student call their parents
- Require student to stay with a chaperone all day
- Cleaning the interior of the bus at the end of the day
- Early curfew at the hotel
- Loss of any free time privileges
- Helping load/unload baggage onto the bus
- Sending a student home at their own expense should be a last resort as it will likely require a chaperone to return home with the student
The importance of parent support and a written contract
It is always a good idea to hold a parent-only meeting before the tour. The most important key to good student discipline is to establish a mutual understanding with the students and parents. To ensure there are no misunderstandings and to eliminate the risk of liability later, have both the student and parents sign a written contract of the behavior expected and the consequences of violations.
In our experience, a simple phone call to a student’s parents will usually prevent a pattern of behavior from becoming worse. Many parents, however, will become quite alarmed if they receive a call from you on-tour. Let the parents know that you may be calling them on tour to pre-empt a problem from arising and that you are merely seeking their assistance. If you have a good rapport with the parents and operate as a team, you should have the tools you need to deliver the best experience possible for your entire group.
Please weigh in here. What disciplinary challenges have you faced as a tour director and what solutions have you found to be most effective? We invite you to share your advice with your fellow tour directors.