In the fall, the seventh-graders have an opportunity to go on an annual field trip. It is an educational experience involving team-building activities and physical challenges. I was invited as a chaperone, as one of the regular teachers had to remain behind for potential jury duty.
In her stead, I was told I had big shoes to fill. The challenge every year is the same: see if you can get through the whole trip without having to bus your own tray. I was up to the test. The one rule was simple: students could not know this was a challenge; they must agree out of the goodness of their heart. It was early in the year, so the "honeymoon" stage was still in full force.
I'm not a pushy person, so I knew if I was refused, I would cave and just do it myself. I had several students, when asked directly, gladly agree to take my tray. Sometimes they took it if they got to eat my dessert, which was a fair trade in my eyes.
I had to get creative when I was in charge of my breakfast crew: we ate first, and then cleaned all the other trays of the students as they finished. Here I had a small sampling of volunteers to coerce. I was elaborate in my ruse. Once the first student finished and sat waiting for the rest of us, I mentioned that I was taking pictures of our time so my husband knew what I was doing in his absence, and would she mind dumping my tray so I could take a picture? (This trip tried to make students aware of food waste, and had students separate leftovers on their trays into separate tubs and then weighed the results.) She looked at me doubtfully, but another student chirped up, "I'll do it!" She posed so well, too!
The field trip was a success; I bused my tray once, only because one night when I finished, there were no more students in the cafeteria. I figured I could have one blip from the trip when I had all other meals covered.