December 13th 2017
“Pleeeeease, please please…. I have to be able to bring my cell phone!” were the words being pleaded to me Tuesday afternoon. Anjelika was getting ready for her eleventh-grade class trip to New York City. She couldn’t believe we were going to have our phone-free policy implemented on this trip. “It’s New York City Kris…I have to be able to take pictures on my phone!!” I said that was a good point and let her know I’d give her first dibs on using one of the student cameras we have set aside for just that purpose. We spent the next thirty minutes or so going back in forth, Anjelika trying to convince me with through half-tears and a pouty face that it was an essential to bring her phone.
We have a philosophy built in to all our UrbanTrekkers trips that students leave their cell phones at home. We want to live in the moment and be engaged with the people immediately around us. It’s so easy to miss those beautiful landscapes, or memory-building moments on the bus, or a deep conversation, or that cool view of the Statue of Liberty on the ferry ride if we are constantly looking down at our screens. By not having the distraction of cell phones, it opens the door for us to really engage in conversation with our students and build those strong relationships that can carry on back home.
The day of the trip, I was impressed- Anjelika didn’t bring her phone. And she didn’t mention it once throughout the entire day. We took the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan, toured the 9/11 Memorial and museum, traversed the subway up to Times Square, entered St. Patrick’s Cathedral, passed by the Rockafeller Center Christmas tree, and handed out scarves and hats to the homeless.
When I returned home that evening, I got a text from Anjelika asking me to send her the pictures I had taken on my phone. Here’s the conversation we had after I passed them her way:
“I applaud your patience with not bringing your own phone“ -Kris
“I forgot all about it once we got on the ferry. I had so much fun.” -Anjelika
“I’m so glad to hear! That’s the goal! Make it fun so that you don’t even need your phone to enjoy it” -Kris
“Yes, of course. I probably would have been on it during the ferry ride. And the subway ride.” -Anjelika
“Haha, hmmm, I think I remember mentioning something like that! Glad you enjoyed the journey.” -Kris
“So am I” -Anjelika
Looks like this time we accomplished our mission- to enjoy the journey, and the people who are alongside us. It was a beautiful reminder to me of the great responsibility and privilege I get to live alongside my students. Ultimately, it was the best example of experiential learning- for Anjelika to discover on her own the power of living in the moment.