Your Role as Group Leader
As an educator, you already provide supervision and counseling to your participants. This resource is designed to assist you in the application of your skills and experience while on tour.
Setting the Tone
Our priority is to make your trip a success and take care of every detail. Your role is to oversee the conduct and well-being of your participants, as well as setting the tone for the group. This means giving your participants daily cues on how to react to their new surroundings and learn from it. When participants return home, their impression of the trip will be a mirror image of your own.
Although difficult circumstances can sometimes arise when traveling, your task as “morale officer” is to help the group rise above these situations by putting a positive spin on things and meeting frustration with humor. By doing this, you can turn minor delays and mishaps into experiences that your participants can joke about for years to come.
Working Together with Other Groups
Groups not large enough to guarantee a private tour may travel with another group from the U.S. It is important that you meet with the other group leaders and the tour manager on the day you arrive.
- On arrival day, we strongly recommend that group leaders hold a Preliminary Group Leader Meeting prior to the group arrival briefing. The purpose of the Preliminary Group Leader Meeting is for group leaders to get to know each other and ensure everyone has a common understanding of the rules and means of enforcement.
- Participants may share rooms with participants from other groups. Be sure to prepare your participants accordingly.
- Spare yourself future tensions by working out bus etiquette with other group leaders in advance. Consider rotating seats, rather than having group leaders take the front seats every day.
- The Student Behavior Guidelines are the minimum ACIS requirements for group travel. You may be traveling with other groups who wish to enforce additional rules for their participants. It is important that you and the other group leaders discuss and respect those rules so that everyone on the bus is aware and understands all the rules in effect.
- If occasions arise where you disagree with another group leader’s interpretation of the rules, please remember it is important not to interfere with that group leader’s relationship with his or her group. This can create ill feelings and affect the entire trip.
- Some groups may contain a mixture of high school students, middle school students and adults. To create the most positive chemistry within the overall bus group, it is crucial that groups representing different ages and backgrounds respect each other. It is important to develop this understanding at the very start of the trip.
As the group leader, you are the disciplinarian for your participants. Discipline is not the tour manager’s job. While he or she will report any infractions to you and intervene in any emergency situations, you are the one directly responsible for your group.
The crucial elements of discipline are as follows:
- Enforcing the curfew. We recommend checking all the hotel rooms immediately after curfew.
- Knowing your participants’ whereabouts. During free time, know where your participants are and when they will return. Students must always stay in groups of three or four when on their own.
- Enforcing appropriate behavior in hotels. Participants should not interfere with the experiences of the other hotel guests.
- Enforcing punctuality and maintaining schedules.
- Maintaining attentiveness. Participants should not talk, sleep or use headphones during commentary or announcements.
- Taking precautions. Remind your participants to carry a copy of the Emergency Numbers Card and their hotel list at all times in case they get separated from the group. This information can also be found on the ACIS Travel App.
- Monitoring hotel rooms, especially on check-out day. This way, you can spot any room damage or belongings left behind. Make sure to check the safes!
- Keeping participants together. You might take a combined group on an evening walking tour, in exchange for the other group leader taking another combined group to an art gallery.
- Making a plan in case of separation. In the rare case a participant gets lost and cannot get in touch with you or ACIS, make a plan. For example, should they stay where they are—and if so, for how long?—or should they meet you and the rest of the group at the hotel? Having a plan makes what could be a stressful situation a quickly resolved one.
Exchange Plus and Homestays
You have the same group leader responsibilities on Exchange Plus and homestay tours as you do on hotel stays, and you remain responsible for participant discipline. Here are a few basic guidelines and tips.
- Introduce yourself to each host family and inform them how they can reach you.
- Visit your participants frequently at their hosts’ homes.
- Monitor your participants’ attendance at classes every day.
- Be prepared to arrange afternoon and evening activities three to four times a week.
You are required to remain in residence during the homestay. Participants must not, under any circumstance, be left without daily supervision.
As it is unlikely that an ACIS Tour Manager will be present, you may obtain assistance if needed from the nearest ACIS office or from ACIS in the U.S. If necessary, use the 24-hour emergency number.
Rules for Group Leaders
ACIS must have standard procedures in place in the extremely unlikely and rare event that a group leader neglects his or her duties.
- In less serious cases, the tour manager will seek to rectify the matter on the spot.
- In more serious cases in which the safety or well-being of a participant or the group may be jeopardized, the tour manager will contact the nearest ACIS office. A serious infraction could result in a group leader’s temporary suspension from the group or being removed from the trip altogether and returned to the U.S. at his or her own expense.
To help you feel confident leading your tour, we are happy to provide you with a free Training Weekend in Barcelona, Costa Rica or Washington, D.C. to familiarize you with all aspects of an ACIS experience.