Why Is Education Like Air Travel?

air_travel_is_getting_safer_all_the_time-460x307By Peggy Wuenstel — As we prepare for the end of the school year, with possible vacation plans on the horizon, arranging itineraries in both areas of my life seemed connected on many levels.

Listening to the news, reading the papers, surfing the internet, and talking with others in the know provide many links between plane trips and an educational career.

How is teaching like air travel?

  • We both get blown and buffeted by the prevailing winds, and when that hot air is powerful or persistent enough we can even get blown off course. Fortunately, through a combination of skilled operators, well-coordinated support crews, and effective technology, we can get back on track. Our ability to get to our destination is significantly impacted by these headwinds and tailwinds. When organized opposition pushes back against a vehicle traveling through space and time, whether that is an aircraft or an education system, more time and energy are required to get to our destinations. Conversely, the support of a tailwind, of passionate advocates, champions for our cause speeds us on our way, lightens our burdens and gets us to the gate on time.
  • Traveling light is often advisable. The more baggage we have to carry with us, the more cumbersome the journey. Keeping your eye on your personal belonging in the airport and your personal convictions and beliefs in the classroom are important instructions for long term safety and success.
  • Security measures are cumbersome, invasive, but probably ultimately necessary in both arenas.  Proper identification, searches of our persons and possessions, background checks and law enforcement interactions are now often compulsory.
  • Most of the time things go smoothly, but things sometimes go spectacularly wrong. Unfortunately, what usually gets reported are the later, when we crash and burn, land with difficulty, or overshoot the targets. It is seldom news when people arrive at the end of a flight or an educational experience on time, with their suitcases packed and where they expected to land.
  • Both forms of travel require highly trained operators, benefit from years of mentored training, and work best with pairs of compatible co-pilots. Pilots of aircraft and classrooms need leadership, continuing training, interpersonal skills, and the confidence to do their jobs well.  Occasionally the true heroes in both professions get the recognition and affirmation that they so richly deserve.
  • It has become increasingly difficult to make a living in these fields. Long hours, a demanding public, crowded cabins, and government oversight are all features that have increased in recent years. This is anecdotal evidence only, but markedly fewer kids now cite teacher or pilot as what they “want to be when they grow up” than when I began my teaching career over thirty years ago.
  • There is always a percentage of “passengers” that are inattentive to our safety instructions. Even when demonstrated in a multi-media way, with humor or creativity, there is a segment of our audience that remains hard to reach. (Google the comedy flight attendant – Southwest Airlines for a good laugh)
  • Our customers are large numbers of people in confined spaces with widely varying needs and demands. The venues in which we work are often aging, designed for economy rather than comfort and require multi-tasking and multi-use applications.
  • There are first, business, and coach classes for this journey. How well you are treated is largely dependent on the amount you are willing or able to pay for your ticket. It is sometimes possible to get an upgrade, but this is infrequent and unpredictable.
  • The overall cost of both education and air travel has increased significantly, with many of the extras that used to enhance comfort and enjoyment being sacrificed in the name of savings.
  • The route that is usually taken is not a direct one. Detours, diversions, and delays are par for the course. We often spend lots of time waiting for the real movement to begin.
  • Air travel and education are both routes to amazing destinations. The ones best able to afford them almost take them for granted or avoid interactions with the general populace by traveling privately.
  • It is impossible to make everyone on either trek happy all the time. A smile, comfortable shoes, an effective voice, and knowing your job are essential for a pleasant journey.

I wish you safe travel, beautiful vistas, and Bon Voyage wherever your educational journey takes you until we meet again in the fall.

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