Field Trip


It’s morning, it’s Prague, and it’s late November, all of which put together means that it’s dark, it’s cold and it’s bleak. While I’d normally be getting ready for work, I am heading off to a conference today in Poland. So instead of staring at my ceiling and being immensely jealous of those who work with computers, I am packing.

We are taking a bus which will take more than seven hours. The professor who pitched this mode of transport did so in the same way that my dad once pitched driving to Disney World. Oh it’s fun. Getting there’s half the fun.

OK, these weren’t the exact words the professor used. I mean, it is a conference on accents, how could anything be half of the fun of that? Unlike my childhood self, seven hours on a bus isn’t the end of the world. I am looking forward to reading and writing, I have a lot of work to do and this is a perfect opportunity to catch up on some of it. My child self would be gravely disappointed in the work aspect, but would also be packing a couple R.L Stines for the trip.

As I pack my shirts and make my lunch, I am reminded of field trips as a kid. I adored them. They were a day away from school. A day when I was expected to learn something and often did. I remember going to a Pennsylvania Dutch village. I have a vague memory of working a butter churn. I kind of remember a kid in our class using sheep shears on a sheep.

As a teacher, a conference is like a field trip. We are a bunch of people getting away from work to do something out of the ordinary in a new place for a few days. My grade school teachers will be chuffed to know that this conference is a major learning experience. By learning, I mean trying to keep my head above water while the world’s leading experts on accents share research and findings.

I had to jump through several hoops to get funding for the trip. When I was a kid, these hoops included asking my dad for money. When I was ten, this money amounted to five dollars. When I got a bit older I tried to finagle an extra five from my mom by hoping my dad had forgotten to tell my mom he gave me cash. This almost never worked out. Garnering conference funding as an adult includes filling out forms and getting signatures from every boss I have ever had in my adult life.

Perhaps the best aspect of adult conferences is that they go on your CV and they show experience. This is a very real commodity in universities and within the academic infrastructure. No doubt this is also true in other fields. I can come home on Sunday afternoon and put this on my CV and add it to my LinkedIn profile and express satisfaction by looking at it for a while. Maybe I can get that butter churning thing on there too.

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