By this point in the trip, the students were doing a much better job at mingling with the Nebraskans and were forming some tentative friendships. It was also adorably apparent that several of the Nebraskans had crushes on some of my kids, which naturally became a source of much teasing on both sides. I, however, was not doing such a great job at befriending the adults. This can be attributed to several reasons:
1) They had so many adults! The Nebraskans had a ratio of 1 adult:2-3 students. Crazy! Naturally, this meant their adults all had people to socialize with already, and there was quite a mix in their group. Some of the adults were parents, some were teachers, and some were relatives of their group leader. One of their chaperons asked me at one point how I had gotten away with such a high student:teacher ratio. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"How did you get the administration or school board to let you travel alone with so many kids?" she asked.
"I didn't ask their permission," I said. Besides, 10 kids? And really good ones at that? That's nothing! But I can see how it might be daunting to them given reason #2:
2) None of them had ever been to New York before.
Seriously. Not a single person in their group. Not even the group leader. In fact, from their comments along the way, my impression is that many of them had never left Nebraska before (and they are from a very small town - apparently the school where they attend/teach is a k-12 school of less than 200 students). And while I applaud them for their bravery in coming out to the big city, and while I certainly approve of their accomplishment of seeing New York, the division between their experiences and mine was quite the chasm. They were fine with Tim knowing things about the city, but much more wary of my own knowledge of the city. I believe my confidence and casualness about the things that struck them with awe and uncertainty gave me an aura of snobbishness. I did try sometimes to dissuade that - to be friendly and helpful and approachable. But sometimes I'm okay with being a snob, especially when it's around people who say things like:
Chaperone A: "Good god, that show took forever! Why couldn't they just say what they had to say and be done with it instead of singing on and on?"
Chaperone B: "Well, Phantom of the Opera is an opera, you know. That's how those things are."
Chaperone A: "Then I never want to see another opera again in my life. How can people stand those things?"
I didn't say anything. I listened to them complain about the show most of the way back to the hotel, but I kept my mouth shut and reminisced with myself about L'Elisir d'Amore instead, opera snob that I am.
Anyway! Let's get back to the Sunday breakdown.
We began in Central Park, but further up than our previous visit. Tim pointed out the Dakota to the group before leading us through the Strawberry Fields past the Bethesda Fountain, along the boating lake, with stops at Hans Christian Anderson and Alice in Wonderland. The group had some free time to enjoy the sights, take group photos, and eat snowcones. It was another hot day, but the park was as pleasant as you would expect and my mountain kids sure loved being surrounded by nature again, even if it was man-made.
We met the bus on the other side of the park, and Bill drove us downtown to the site of the World Trade Center. We had tickets to see the memorial later in the afternoon, so we first visited St. Paul's Cathedral, Wall Street, Battery Park, and grabbed lunch at a sandwich shop near the 9/11 preview museum.
Once we got past the security for the memorial, Tim gave the group an hour there. Given the temperature, the temperaments of teenagers, and the nature of the memorial itself, that really was too much time. I believe it was the result of Smithsonian dedicating an entire afternoon to sites that could be done in an hour combined, but Tim squelched the kids' protests over the lengthy time in the memorial by playing the guilt card - "Think of the families who come here to remember and mourn for their lost loved ones. For them, an hour isn't enough." Personally, I liked the design of the memorials and I think it will be a great site when it's completed, but agreed with the students that we had to spend far too much time there.
We had dinner at Schnipper's Kitchen, which was actually pretty tasty and very accommodating for such a large group, then headed to the Empire State Building. The crowds were plentiful by this time, and we wound up waiting in line for over two hours to go to the observation decks. The kids complained about this as well, naturally, and I agreed that it really wasn't worth the wait, although I did try to console them by pointing out that the Empire State Building really is one thing you should do in your lifetime and now they can check it off their lists. This provided little comfort. To my personal delight, their main complaint was that we were spending the evening waiting in line instead of seeing another show. How quickly I have molded them to my line of thought!
They were actually pretty well-behaved, given the circumstances. When they spent part of the time in line having a dance party through their tiny cell phone speakers, I nervously checked in with the patrons in line around us to see if my students were too annoying. Instead, I found that the other tourists were smiling and enjoying my students' antics. I think they were glad for the diversions as well.