Carl Bosch chaperones a school ski trip full of rowdy students, bugs, lost items, junk food, and sprained wrist, but more than anything it is full of fun, and that is what’s most important.
We’ve just returned from the annual weekend-long student ski trip, tired, a bit sore, but unbowed. 120 seventh and eighth grade students, 13 chaperones and enough hats, gloves, neck warmers, ski pants, jackets, fleeces, and heavy socks to keep a small village in Norway warm for an entire winter. This is my 25th year on the trip. Our middle school sponsors all manner of field trips that have direct educational value. Boston Freedom Trail, Exploring Long Island Sound, Washington, D.C. even Broadway plays. But this trip is focused almost entirely on one thing…fun.
The rooms at our lodge are “rustic” and rather tired. It’s a new location we’ve not been to before. Teachers nickname the building where the boys stay “The Barracks”. Within short order many rooms appear as if miniature hand grenades have been detonated inside each suitcase and ski bag. T-shirts, pants, errant socks, athletic shorts, sleeping bags and a Radio Shack collection of electronic devices are strewn about each room resembling the site of a tragic roadside accident. Students compile their collective snacks and candy on dressers and take photographs as if to declare: “These Twizzlers, goldfish crackers and jugs of Arnold Palmer ice tea are our stash and we will consume them!” One room reports tiny little bugs coming up out of the sink. We report this to the front desk. They arrive and pour something between Pine sol and napalm down the drain. The bugs multiply exponentially. I secretly harbor the thought that the bugs are heading for the Twizzlers or perhaps the smallest boy in the room.
I’m amazed at the number of students who have great difficulty mastering the skill of attempting to lock and unlock a door with an actual metal key. They can text 50 words a minutes, but a key…they gaze at the lock as it contains hieroglyphics. It’s 13 degrees when the students ski on Saturday, 9 degrees on Sunday. They really don’t care. They complain about almost everything, but not so much about the cold, except to acknowledge it. The skiing is superb.
Saturday night is a carnival of activity. Swimming pool, hot tub, game room, bingo and an activity called a “dance” that one astute teacher dubs a “stand” as our students crush together in the tightest, bouncing, vertical space possible, a veritable “black hole of New Hampshire”. I’m convinced that several students come only for this Saturday evening insanity. We could take them to the nearest Holiday Inn to our town for the same festivities without the skiing, but that probably wouldn’t go over to well with parents. We tape their doors at bedtime to prevent them from roaming, but that strategy is too complicated to explain.
I remember some ski trips in the distant past. Kids sneaking cigarettes and climbing balconies. Quite long ago an eighth grade girl demonstrated some obscene gestures to passing snowmobilers. Her parents were summoned to take her home. Once a boy who had lost a hand in a childhood accident had the misfortune of breaking the wrist of the hand he did have! Sporting a decorative cast, eighth grade girls helped to feed him and he smiled a lot. He was quite cute. And once, thankfully one time only, a delightful young girl suffered a terrible accident crashing into a tree. Emergency services, an ambulance, a helicopter evacuation and long hospital convalescence saved her life. This year we have only a sprained wrist, jammed thumb, a bruised heel and various pulled muscles, aches and pains, bumps and bruises. What we mainly have, as always, is lost items: clothing, money, cell phones, assorted bathing suits, gloves, hats, ski poles, and even one snowboard. (The victim always proclaims that it was stolen.)
Thus the bus ride home is quieter. A normal result of too little sleep, a solid amount of exercise and an abundance of fun. I wonder a little about why teachers chaperone this trip. We don’t get paid. It’s Super Bowl weekend and we miss half the game. We get to ski free but that doesn’t seem to be much of a payoff. This year only four of the chaperones hit the slopes. Perhaps it’s because we enjoy being in the company of our students. Unfettered by the responsibility of teaching and learning, evaluating and critiquing, molding and shaping, we like their energy and enthusiasm. Perhaps.
And so I add one more item to my career repository of activities experienced for the very last time. Ski trip! Check it off! It was a good run. Every single one of them.
10,084 days down, 91 left