Ensuring a safe and fun learning environment on the road

Setting the Right Tone For Student Discipline

by Lance Harvey

As a teacher, you know the importance of setting expectations for discipline in order to run an effective classroom. The traveling classroom, however, poses a different set of challenges. In an exploratory environment, students need to be given more freedom but in a structured manner consistent with the pace and nature of the tour.

Balancing discipline with personal growth

Your students may be experiencing many of their firsts- leaving home or riding on a plane, sharing a hotel room with classmates, exploring a big city, shopping for souvenirs, experiencing new cultures and so many more.  In fact some of your students’ most life-changing moments will occur during these non-textbook moments. You certainly don’t want to stifle these learning moments but must set a tone for discipline for the good of the entire group and be prepared to enforce those rules on tour.

Set the rules and expectations at the first tour meeting

  • Following all group leader, tour director and chaperone instructions
  • Being on time for every event on tour
  • The nightly curfew times and rules
  • Never leaving the group without obtaining permission
  • Buddy System- Students must remain with a buddy at all times
  • Requirements of appropriate dress and conduct at each event
  • Following rules set by hotels and bus companies
  • No tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol or sexual conduct
  • Treating all persons on the tour with respect, especially 
in situations with consolidated groups
  • If the tour is school-sponsored, following all school guidelines 

  • Rules and expectations related to cell phones and ipods and other electronic devices

Common disciplinary violations you should anticipate

  • Going off alone without a buddy
 or permission
  • Going into rooms of the opposite sex
  • Disrupting others on the bus or at the hotel with loud talking
  • Arriving late at meeting spots

  • Violating the zero tolerance drug or alcohol policy

For students who do not follow rules, consequences might include:

  • Calling the parents
  • Having the student call their parents
  • Require student to stay with a chaperone all day
  • Cleaning the interior of the bus at the end of the day
  • Early curfew at the hotel
  • Loss of any free time privileges
  • Helping load/unload baggage onto the bus
  • Sending a student home at their own expense should be a last resort as it will likely require a chaperone to return home with the student

The importance of parent support and a written contract

It is always a good idea to hold a parent-only meeting before the tour. The most important key to good student discipline is to establish a mutual understanding with the students and parents. To ensure there are no misunderstandings and to eliminate the risk of liability later, have both the student and parents sign a written contract of the behavior expected and the consequences of violations.

In our experience, a simple phone call to a student’s parents will usually prevent a pattern of behavior from becoming worse. Many parents, however, will become quite alarmed if they receive a call from you on-tour.  Let the parents know that you may be calling them on tour to pre-empt a problem from arising and that you are merely seeking their assistance. If you have a good rapport with the parents and operate as a team, you should have the tools you need to deliver the best experience possible for your entire group.


Please weigh in here. What disciplinary challenges have you faced as a tour director and what solutions have you found to be most effective? We invite you to share your advice with your fellow tour directors. 

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