Field trip!

Boarding the bus the other day, I expected to open a book and settle in among other morning commuters. Didn’t happen.

It was Standing Room Only, with an estimated two dozen people packed into the aisle amongst a chatty group of school kids, headed on a field trip downtown.

Another group gathers at the Rose Quarter for a spring field trip.

Another group gathers at the Rose Quarter for a spring field trip.

My first thought: Well, this is inconvenient. I was looking forward to a little reading.

My second thought: Get a grip, George. Appreciate the smiles on the faces of all these black and brown kids with their phone number and name (Kameron, Reeson, Marvin, and a couple of Urkel lookalikes, etc.) printed on a sticky name tag affixed to their sweatshirts and T-shirts.

Even more, appreciate the handful of moms and dads taking time out of their day to serve as chaperones.

Appreciate the teacher getting a break from her classroom routine to take her students into the heart of the city.

Turns out these kids were from Woodlawn School in Northeast Portland.

Steve Urkel, the beloved character from "Family Matters."

Steve Urkel, the beloved character from “Family Matters.”

At each stop, another adult or two climbed aboard, making a tight fit even tighter. Hipsters wearing headphones and middle-aged workers bound for OHSU hung on to straps or grasped metal rods running the length of the bus as we lurched forward.

As we neared the Rose Quarter, the familiar skyline came into view.

“Big Pink! Big Pink!” a couple of boys shouted, pointing to the tallest building downtown.

Moments later, the bus came to a stop.

“Here we are,” a dad wearing an Oregon State sweatshirt said with a smile. “Everybody under five feet, off the bus!”

Boys and girls clambered off to wait for a transfer to the light rail train that would carry them across the river.

Education is important and all parents want the best for their kids, don’t they? That was the implicit message these working-class moms and dads were sending to their sons and daughters.

While helicopter parents hover over their kids in affluent neighborhoods, I’m happy to catch a ride with these Woodlawn kids and their parents any day.

Photograph of Steve Urkel:


One thought on “Field trip!

  1. Thoughtful thoughts, George. I can remember decades ago when I chaperoned young students from my daughters’ school, Vernon, on Northeast Killingsworth, a school of a majority of minorities and covering the economic levels from poverty to working class to lower middle class, but mostly working class people. We were headed for the zoo on a school bus. I was surprised when a number of the — I think — first graders, maybe second graders, were delighted to be going over the Fremont Bridge. It was clear that many had not been over that bridge before, and perhaps had not seen it before. It was a learning experience for me. Not every child in that part of Portland lived with the same horizons and experiences. Field trips were an important part of helping them see a broader world.

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