Yesterday was the first day of my three day 'ride-along' - an interactive training session where I follow a guide in the field whilst they navigate honest-to-goodness 8th grade students around DC. The company I'm working with during this ride-along is WorldStrides and my trainer is a personal friend and mentor, Heidi Watson.
At 1:45 PM, we met the group at Mount Vernon. Two bus loads of kids from Wisconsin awaited us, and thank God they were Wisconsinites because that means they were dressed appropriately for the weather (it's cold in DC). Heidi and I took Bus #1 and our colleague Rob took charge of Bus #2. The two of them are a study in contrast - Rob's a smooth mug of decaf while Heidi's a stadium cup of Mountain Dew. Somehow they make it work.
As I stuck close to Heidi's side, taking notes and paying attention to her interaction with the group, I also flashed on my own 8th grade trip way back in 1997; a memory so vivid I can recall buying a Stone Temple Pilots CD at a Sam Goody in Union Station during my visit (this was during Jefferson's 2nd term).
It was interesting to watch the social breakdown amongst the kids. There was the smart one who instantly glommed onto the guide to gobble up every morsel of information (a child after my own heart), the good looking boy who has surrounded himself with a harem of girls, the funny one that always has a sly, giggle-inducing comment, etc.
Anyway, after Mount Vernon it was onto Old Country Buffet for dinner. Now the last time I was at an OCB, I was a senior in high school - nothing's changed. Same heat lamps, same sneeze guards and same trough-sized amounts of mac n' cheese. It's the perfect place to bring a big group because they can eat all they want of whatever they want. Heidi worked the throng of kids like a seasoned pro, effortlessly switching gears from being an explainer of George Washington's life & times into a restaurant behavioral manager. I just continued to take notes and eat meatloaf.
Afterwards, it was an evening journey into DC to visit the Big Three (Lincoln, Vietnam & Korea) followed by a stopover at the Canadian Embassy. The temperature had dropped considerably as night fell, but the group was undeterred. Rob and Heidi drew their lightsabers to lead the bus loads of 8th graders on a journey of discovery and I tagged along for the ride. Thus far the kids are cool and the lead teacher is a really genuine guy. No complaints.
I've included some pictures below. Day 2 of the journey is currently underway.