“It’s the kids. They motivate me.”
She says that she doesn’t have a favorite single memory from her travels, but it’s “just watching the kids, seeing them experience new things and their genuine reactions.”
In 2009, she got to share some very special moments with her students when they traveled from their town in western Tennessee to Washington, D.C., to be part of the Presidential Inauguration.
Jeanne, an 8th grade history teacher got the idea for the trip from a card EF Explore America had sent in the mail. Her school does a huge mock election project—each student plays a part from politicians to journalists to secret service agents—so she thought there would be some interest from the students who participated in 2004 and those who were gearing up for the 2008 elections.
She held her first meeting, hoping for six students to attend and ended up with 76!
As the days drew closer to her departure, she admits to having a moment of wondering what she was getting herself in to, but she said, “EF Explore America made it easy. I felt safe taking the parents’ precious cargo (their children).”
Jeanne said Inauguration was “the most amazing experience.”
“The fact that we were standing there and realizing, ‘This is happening right now,’ made the kids feel so special.”
She said that the moment of Inauguration was incredible, and in a way, surreal. For many of her students, the impact of what they experienced really sank in after the events of the day.
Jeanne remembers reading some of the students’ journals on the way home. They brought tears to her eyes.
“What they took away was incredible.”
The EF Explore America Inaugural Ball was another highlight for her students (and her)! She said they loved getting dressed up and feeling so adult. It was also fun for her students to meet other kids from all over the country who had come to the capital to be part of Inauguration, too.
“They had a blast—I had a blast!”
Advice from an Inauguration tour group leader
For teachers wanting to take their students on an Inauguration tour, Jeanne shared a few points of advice.
Interest letter – Send the students home with a letter introducing yourself and the trip.
Enrollment meeting – Share something tangible about the excitement of Inauguration. For her first trip, Jeanne shared a slide show of the students who participated in the mock elections at school. This got them thinking again about the energy and fun of the elections and the Inauguration naturally became the climax that they wanted to experience for themselves. For the 2013 trip, she shared photos from the2009 Inauguration. Sharing videos of past inaugurations or photos could also be a fun way to let travelers know what a once-in-a-lifetime experience this will be.
Plan ahead and set expectations – Jeanne stresses that helping students understand what to expect on tour helps tour run smoothly – even for things like packing. “I bring a packed carry-on suitcase to our pre-tour meeting to show the students that it’s doable and easier to use the carry-on luggage.”
But the best advice ties back to her reason to travel – the students: Let yourself enjoy the moments and memories you’ll make.
Want to give your students the experience of a lifetime? Make them part of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.