Be the change, being a teacher, being me

On Airplanes

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I am hurtling through the air, clouds drifting by beneath me, blanketing the earth from view.  Confined to the seat I was given by a computer, on an airplane as I once again cross the country in order to teach other educators all that my students have taught me.

My seat is comfortable, for short periods of time, the ache in my back slowly making its presence known, reminding me that as I get older, my body carries the signs of frequent travel and confinement.  Of sitting in airplanes and plastic chairs, of hurriedly drinking my tea before I find the seat that has been given to me, that will dictate my next hours all in order to serve a greater purpose of bringing me to the destination I need to go to.

I am reminded of how it used to be a joy to get on a plane, excited for the journey ahead, and now it is mostly just ordinary, a means to an end, no longer covered in sparkles and foil, but just another day at the office.  How my mind has made it a quest for anything to be out of the ordinary just so that this very trip can be wrapped in something other than what I have come to expect; greetings from polite attendants, the same snack selection, perhaps a movie, nothing more, nothing less.

Much like the school experience many of our children have.  One that used to be wrapped up in excitement and possibility but now is immersed in tradition, in used to it’s, in more of the same, and the same expectations for all for the greater good.

I wonder why it has taken me so long to see the similarities between airplane travel and our schools?  Wedged in beside strangers that I may or may not connect with, told within the armrests what our area is, with hidden rules and expectations of what proper behavior is.  Knowing full well how rude it is to take up more space than what we are given. How rude it is to draw attention to ourselves through the food we eat, the scents we bring with us, the volume of our conversations.  How rude it is to be loud, to be seen, to be anything but quiet and nearly invisible in order for the greater good, the common purpose.

How the attendants start us all with the same speech, assuming that only a few are paying attention and yet they try to tell us how important it all is for our future as they vie for our attention while using hands-on manipulatives and humor.

How the seats we are given mirror the very experience our students have when we give them rights that are based on what they already have.  More wealth or status gives you a better seat, a better seat gives you better service, food, blankets, and careful attention.  Remove the privilege, remove the ease, as the rest of us regular folks can only sit and watch behind the mesh curtain, aware that we are not good enough, not properly attuned to sit up there where the air must surely be better because the food certainly is.

And I am confined, not just in my physical space, but also mentally.  I find it hard to concentrate on the tasks at hand, longing instead for the air to move, for the wiggle room to do something other than sitting here, even though I know that the quiet I have been given in this very moment should be seen as a gift.  A chance for me to take a moment and do whatever I want, but this is hard to do when all I want to do is not be confined.

I count down the minutes until the journey is over so that I may resume regular life.  Outside of these rules.  Outside of this space.

And so what do we do within this knowledge of what school may be seen like for some of our students?  How do we, within the rigid systems we claim are in place for the greater good, find space for all of our students to breathe freely, to break the boundaries of the space they are given and recover the sense that where we are going matters?  This is what I ponder as the attendant waits for us to push the button in case we need anything, as they do everything in their power to ensure we all have a pleasant and safe flight.  As they wrap us in infinite patience.  Feed us snacks to make sure our inner rumblings don’t become outer ones.  As they try to take us to a destination that we surely wanted to go to at some point.  But perhaps we just forgot.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.




11 thoughts on “On Airplanes”

  1. What a great analogy. Now to figure out how to make constructive use of it, knowing the numbness of that familiar airplane environment. Thanks for sharing these observations.

    1. So agree with you Jane … it’s such a good post, I reblogged it on my site as I have a number of teachers who follow me!

  2. This post is so powerful. Perhaps it’s because I ‘m currently traveling—I have a flight behind me and ahead of me, but it so resonates. Thank you so much. I am thinking now of what I can do to make my class, this school year feel different.

  3. This is why I so love everything that you write and share. : ) I have already had to stop myself in these first few days of school as I have tried to traditionally “manage” that handful of kiddos who are louder or more rowdy than they are “supposed” to be and instead try to imagine what it could be like to create that environment where everyone feels welcome to come learn as they are. It isn’t easy, but that’s not always the point.

  4. I think, in a way, a lot of social situations are similar to school classrooms. The airplane analogy you’ve come up with is really interesting, though!

    Also, I love the picture on the top and the accompanying words 🙂

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