Michelle Archer is the deputy Principal of Dungog High School and has been organising overseas study tours for students since for nearly a decade. Here she shares her top tips for teachers planning their own trips and what students can gain out of such experiences.
How long have you been organising study tours?
I have had the absolute pleasure of taking students on overseas tours since 2012 – people say that I’m crazy, but I have to say that this is one of the most rewarding experiences as a teacher. I have organised tours to United States, Gallipoli, Vietnam, Japan and of course Europe – France, Italy, Germany. The group sizes have ranged from small (10-12) to large (40+).
What are your top tips for organising your study tour, especially for first time organising teachers?
The 5 P’s (Planning and preparation prevents poor performance) – it is really important that you are planning your tour ahead of time (I plan at least 18 months in advance). I have a five-year travel plan for my school rotating between Asia/Europe and each tour is linked to at least 3-4 KLAs.Communication is also key – firstly with your Principal/Director and then with students, parents, staff. This is really important, especially when your tour is confirmed. I do monthly newsletters to my travellers (and include the Director, Principal/s, and parents) as well as setting up a closed Facebook page that is used to communicate both in Australia and then when overseas. If this is your first time organising a tour – make sure you connect with someone that has arranged tours before – they can give you some first-hand knowledge and advice (why re-invent the wheel?). Ensure you are aware of your Education system’s policies and procedures around overseas excursions – don’t let the paperwork scare you off! Don’t be afraid to invite other schools along with you – I coordinate between 3-5 different schools for one tour (one tour I had 1 student from 20 different high schools, across 3 different education sectors!!). I am more than happy to share any documents/resources I use to help you get your trip running smoothly.
What are your top tips for teachers managing students whilst on tour?
I believe that my success in this area comes solely from one thing – I set very clear rules and expectations of students’ right from the very first Information Evening. This is essential, so that both students and parents know what is expected of their child and these are universal across all students (as I usually have students from different schools) and staff too. Remember – you don’t have to do everything! Make sure to break your groups into smaller, manageable groups with attending teachers – this helps with a whole host of different things on tour (getting on/off public transport, issuing tickets, etc). Depending on your itinerary – make sure you plan downtime for both students and staff. It is also really important to schedule debrief time/activity if you are visiting emotionally confronting sites (think Dachau).
Apart from the academic learning students can take away from a tour, what other positive effects on students who travel on a study tour?
Even though each tour is aligned with Key Learning Areas, my firm belief is that we are educating global citizens. This means giving students the opportunity to experience new things regardless of what they are studying at school. My favourite things about touring with students are being able to taking them to places they have only ever seen in a book or on TV, watching them experience different cultures, seeing how much they grow in the short time we are on tour, the friendships they build with their peers (often someone they would not usually associate with at school) and witnessing how each student gains not only first-hand knowledge about the areas we are visiting, but how they have a thirst to learn more and travel more. I often get into trouble from parents after we return from tour because their child has matured into a young adult; because their young adult now wants to travel more; because they have never seen their young adult so happy before – the list goes on. I also love the fact that my tour groups don’t just disappear after our tour. The groups often arrange several catch ups after their return, and in some cases, these have continued well into their 20’s.
Michelle Archer is the deputy Principal of Dungog High School in the upper Hunter region of NSW and teaches Ancient History. Michelle first travelled with Academy Travel on a teacher PD tour to Italy in 2007 and organises school group tours with us biennially. She loves revisiting the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum to keep up to date with the ongoing changes and sampling the amazing food Europe has to offer whilst on tour.