Earlier this summer I did some traveling with my family. A part of that travel was a few trips on airplanes, and this was my preschool’s son first time going on airplanes. This let me think and view the trip from his perspective. There was a sense of wonder and awe with everything on the airplane and all of the aspects of riding on one. As I enjoyed sitting with him as he took it all in, it got me thinking and this spurred an idea in my mind. This idea is what became the Secret Occupations of Teachers (S.O.o.T.) posts.
Today S.O.o.T. is the one that started this idea in the first place. Teachers are like flight attendants. I know, this one is going to seem like a bit of a stretch, but just bare with me. I think it will make sense. 🙂
A flight attendant is an important part of a flight crew. Of all of the roles that are played on an airplane, the flight attendant is the most public, at least to passengers. Basically, they are the face of the flight. They are who set the tone before, during, and after take-off and landing.
The job of flight attendant serves two main functions: ensure that safety regulations are being followed and to make sure that passengers as as comfortable as possible during the flight. Everything that flight attendants do fall under those categories. CareerPlanner.com gives the following job description:
1) Announce and demonstrate safety and emergency procedures such as the use of oxygen masks, seat belts, and life jackets.
2) Answer passengers’ questions about flights, aircraft, weather, travel routes and services, arrival times, and/or schedules.
3) Assist passengers in placing carry-on luggage in overhead, garment, or under-seat storage.
4) Assist passengers while entering or disembarking the aircraft.
5) Attend preflight briefings concerning weather, altitudes, routes, emergency procedures, crew coordination, lengths of flights, food and beverage services offered, and numbers of passengers.
6) Check to ensure that food, beverages, blankets, reading material, emergency equipment, and other supplies are aboard and are in adequate supply.
To sum it up, flight attendants are all about passengers. To keep them safe. To keep them happy as possible. I know there have been some stories in the news where this did not happen, and most of us have had a bad experience or two, but for the most part we can probably say that a majority of flight attendants do the best job possible. Which would be hard, if you think about it. They know that they probably will not see the passengers again, and sometimes the passengers can be rude for a number of reasons. They put up with a lot, but they try to keep a smile on their faces as they pass passengers on from one place to the next as safely and comfortably as possible.
Teacher, you are a flight attendant. You have two main roles as a teacher, to ensure a safe environment for learning and to provide and atmosphere that makes learning comfortable (comfortable in terms of growing understanding, thinking skills/processes, independent thought, etc…). When the learning environment is safe and comfortable, thinking, understanding, and learning happens.
I know that I have shared this quote before, but what Albert Einstein said fits so well here:
I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide an environment in which they can learn.
We, as teachers, set the tone, atmosphere, and safety net for learning. We make sure that students feel secure. We make sure that they are safe physically, mentally, and emotionally. We make sure that they have what they need. We go over the procedures over, and over, and over, and over, and over…and then one more time. We provide for them. We even sometimes give snacks…on the longer flights of knowledge. And we put up with a lot…keeping a smile the best that we can.
The constant smile on your face comes with a cost…it is hard to do and sometimes almost hurts to take what gets thrown at you. Sometimes you do not handle it well, but those times are not often. You do your best to keep your cool. You do your best to keep a straight face as you go over the “safety procedures” while your student roll there eyes. You try to deal with disgruntled “passengers” the best that you can and keep an even tone. You do your best to work with your “passengers” even though the “pilots” may be making what you need to do difficult from time to time. You try to keep that smile and continue to keep your “passengers” safe and the learning environment comfortable.
You are awesome. People who think you do not do miracles every day just don’t know what you do. They don’t understand. Students, parents, administration, and anyone else who gives you negative feedback from time to time do not see your day-to-day and minute-to-minute. Take it with a grain of salt, change what you can change, and move on. You are amazing. Keep that smile up no matter what goes down. You are good at what you do and you are making a difference.
Teacher, are you doing all that you can do to keep the learning environment as safe and comfortable as you possibly can? What can you do improve the atmosphere of your classroom and optimize learning every day? The challenge I would like to give to you is to find some way you can make a change. It can be a teaching strategy or a change in how you view thinking and learning. Pick one thing. Study it. Absorb it. Plan with it. Implement it. One thing. Summer folks, you even have a few weeks left to do this.
A couple of suggestions of things that I have pick as some of my “one things”:
- Problem/Project Based Learning (PBL) – PBL is a buzzword (well, buzz-letters) you probably have been hearing about if you do not already know about it and use it. Basically, it is giving your content relevance to the students and teaching with an end in mind that the students buy into. The Buck Institute for Education is one of the best sources out there. Edutopia also has some great information and available resources for incorporating PBL. Project Based Learning has a self-guided mini-course you can work through to learn more, and this is the site that helped me the most.
- Brain-Based Learning – as you can probably infer, brain-based learning uses current brain research to improve the understanding of teaching and learning processes and helps you change your teaching strategies in light of this. Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen, which I know I talk about a lot, was the beginning of my understanding and implementation brain-based learning. He also has several other books (Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching, and Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain, to name a few…and no, they are not paying me for endorsements, I am just a fan!). There are other great resources out there, as well. There is a book that I plan to get soon that would be a great place to start, Brain Rules by John Medina (who is a molecular biologist who knows what he is talking about…he is not just a former teacher). Another great resource is How the Brain Learns by Dr. David Sousa (viewed as one of the leading experts on the brain and learning). You can do an internet search and find a number of online resources, as well.
Teacher, you are a flight attendant. It may seem like a lesser job on the flight crew, but it really one of the most important. What you do is important. Very important! You set the tone, atmosphere, and environment for learning. And you do it with a smile. You are awesome! Keep on smiling and keep on teaching!
Remember this, we are only flight attendants for our students on their way from one city to the next on their journey of life. Don’t waste the little time that you have with them! Now, please return your seats and tray tables to the proper, upright position. 🙂
PS…Thanks for reading through this one. It was long! I hope it was worth your time!
Oh, and for those of you who use Edmodo, I have started an Edmodo Group for the daily updates. This way I will be able to make the “Edmodo blasts” in the Communities few and far between…I don’t know that everyone “loves” them. 🙂