The Adventures of a Traveler

The first day of my UK adventure, I was in the role of traveller if I interpret Lester’s message correctly. It was the day for planes and planes and planes to get here. Where I needed to be and when was dictated by the schedule issued me by the airline. Not a bad thing, just a necessity to reach my ultimate goal.

When I arrived at the JFK airport from Raleigh, I went to the departure board as instructed and found the gate number for my departing flight. Making my way through the hoards of people, I arrived in the area where my gate should have been. Hm….the number skipped and it appeared my gate was lost. So I backtracked, followed the arrow signs again and ended up with the same result. I walked over to a directory and that’s when I realized I was in the domestic terminal and somehow needed to get to the terminal for international flights. A moment of panic almost set in as I was using all the information around me I could find, but couldn’t formulate an answer. That’s when I saw the sign that said “Delta Terminal 4 International flights. Take the shuttle leaving from Gate B11”. There was my answer! I found Gate 11 just as they were loading the shuttle.

How often do kids struggle in our classes because the information they have doesn’t seem to be enough to find the “right answers”? How many are as reticent as I was to actually ask for help or admit to not knowing? How many keep looking around hoping they might by chance stumble upon the “right answer”?

The plane from JFK to Amsterdam was huge. I found myself wanting to take pictures and send them to my boys.It was staffed by Dutch flight attendants and all the announcements were first made in Dutch and then in English. There were many, many on the plane who spoke neither language as their primary language and I found myself thinking about those second language learners who sit in our classroom. While I knew much of the content of the airline announcements without needing to hear them, some of it was important info and I was glad when it was repeated in a language I could understand. How must it feel to sit somewhere where the important info is never available in a language you understand? I was also so impressed with the flight crew’s command of both languages. I reminded myself to find ways in the classroom to honor my bilingual students. It is truly a gift.

I arrived in Amsterdam for the last leg of my trip. It turned out to be the most disconcerting leg of the trip! When I got off the plane, I took out my preprinted boarding pass for the next flight and approached the departing flights marquee. My flight was not listed there!  I thought I must be missing something, so I studied the marquee and identified the pattern. Flights were not alphabetical by arrival city as they were other places. Here it was by time the flight was leaving. I looked at my flight info again, looked at the marquee again. Still no answer. Not ready to panic quite yet, I saw a kiosk where you could check on your connector. Off I went. The computer asked me to scan the bar code on my boarding pass. When I did, the machine said “Error. You have entered the wrong boarding pass” The wrong boarding pass?! It was the only pass I had left! Figuring it must be my error, I scanned again. Same error message. Now I was beginning to panic. I searched around and found a live human being who was helping others at the kiosk. When I shared my dilemma, she pointed me down the hallway and to the left to find someone else. I followed her directions but couldn’t locate the second kiosk I was supposed to find. So I turned around, walked back and retraced my steps. Whew…there it was! I explained my issue and the desk attendant told me I was to report to Gate 41. Arriving at Gate 41, I read the marquee there to discover that this flight was leaving at 9:30 to fly to Dublin. Problem? I was looking for the 10am flight to Edinburgh. I waited a few minutes because the attendant was the expert right? She had the whole schedule in front of her, so how could she give me a wrong answer?

The longer I sat there, the more it bothered me that the info I had been given and the text I now had, did not match. So, I went back to the kiosk area. I was hesitant to ask for more help, so I pulled out my original itinerary and searched for my flight information by confirmation number rather than using the bar code. Eureka!!! My flight was leaving at 9:55, not 10 as listed on the boarding pass, from Gate 14 NOT 41. I had an answer! Scotland here I come!

How often do kids feel this way as travelers in our classrooms? They are given information, they do their best to use that information, yet, they are told the answer is “wrong”. Will they come back and ask us again? Or will they forge ahead, feeling frustrated because they just can’t seem to get the information to yield what they want/need? Do our kids even know what questions to ask? I was able to use multiple “texts” and strategies to solve my problem. Do our kids have multiple strategies? Are we showing them how to use those strategies? And do we teach them that sometimes “experts” are wrong? Lots to think about for the travelers and adventurers who await us in the classroom.

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6 thoughts on “The Adventures of a Traveler

  1. Thanks for these observations. As you said, sometimes traveller-mode is a necessity. It sure creates obstacles though for students. I wonder if adventurer-mode is obstacle-free, or if the obstacles are less frustrating. Can’t wait to read more. Enjoy.

    • Tomorrow I am in adventurer mode. I’m getting on a train to head into the Highlands. I think I’m getting off at the last stop,but haven’t decided. I can already see adventurer mode having one drawback- the very large suitcase I opted to bring with me. Very poor planning. What do we do if we let kids be adventurers and they make poor choices? Something to ponder. You always make me think, my friend!

  2. This is a fascinating perspective, and it sounds like it will lead to an even more rich vacation than you could have imagined! I am reading and comparing it to my travels this summer. Because I traveled with my daughter (18) and I had been to Europe before, it was as though I was the “guide” even though I was often the learner at the same time! I need to think about this some more. Looking forward to hearing more.

  3. I love the way you’ve used your “traveler” mode to climb in the skins of our students. Being a good teacher really takes a lot of imagination and empathy, the ability to lose yourself and see things from someone else’s perspective. It’s really part of what makes good friends and good people, in general, too, I think. Hey, maybe that’s yet another benefit of reading fiction: training your empathy muscles. What do you think? Thanks for sharing your amazing trip, even with its trials!!

    • I think you are on to something, Jo! Many of my struggling readers do not like science fiction, fantasy, etc… because they just can’t imagine the situations. Reading is a way to put ourself in another’s shoes or even another time or place. Nice connection!

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