Many of us look forward to traveling with our students in the summer of 2022. As we make our plans, here are some important issues you might want to consider.
- It’s been a long time since the choir has traveled. Be very clear with your expectations. For most of us, the last time we traveled with our students was in 2019. That’s three full years since the last mission trip or choir tour. Even for the most seasoned youth choir student, there is going to be a rather steep re-learning curve. Two full travel years have been lost, and some of your “middle aged” youth choir students still have not traveled at all with you. It’s imperative that we take nothing for granted and that we very clearly communicate our expectations.
- Not only has it been a long time since our choirs have traveled together, it’s been a long time since we directors have led a group! It might be tempting to say to ourselves, “Oh sure, I know how to do this, I’ve done it for years,” and slip up with some of our most basic commitments in tour directing. Being lazy in our communication with our students and parents could be one of those oversights. Be careful, vigilant, and communicative as you plan.
- Work way ahead for anything you plan to do. It should go without saying that all plans need to happen well in advance. But just planning in advance is not enough; we also need to COMMUNICATE that planning with the students (and parents), as well. Remember, in order for a tour to be the best it can be, we need to have everyone on the same page as well as in the same bus. And, by the way, this might not be the best time to take a “mystery tour,” you know, the kind where the kids don’t know where they’re going until you take them there. We suggest no mystery tours for the next four or five years, not until experience and confident is built back up and there is a sense of high safety and security within your group.
- You might want to take along some extra adult help. And when we say help, make certain that every adult you take on your trip is, indeed, help! I still contend that, after doing this work for four decades, ill-chosen adult counselors on a mission trip have brought me far more pain than any mischief or carelessness brought on by teenagers. Choose your adult counselors carefully and wisely, and for this first trip after a break, you might consider taking along an extra adult or two. A medical person, if not standard equipment for your touring group, should be highly considered.
- There are likely to be some new issues for you and the students to address, even for those who are some of your most experienced travelers. The pandemic has had some bizarre effects upon a lot of people, including teenagers. Try not to be surprised at whatever manifestations of fear, insecurity, or even anger and acting out might occur. Your advance planning and strong communication will help avert much of this, but we need to still be prepared for a wide range of feelings, actions, and reactions.
- Remember your very first mission trip or choir tour with this group of students back when? You might want to revisit that trip and make a new list of what you and the group learned in that first trip together. When you get that list together, place it up against your planning for this year and make sure you’ve covered all the bases and checked all the boxes. And again, don’t forget that the first thing back after this long of a break is likely to feel a little strange and unnatural. Be patient with yourself, your adult counselors, and especially with the students. They are looking to us for not only guidance, but also for assurance, encouragement, and affection.