The most successful traveling educators are those who can do a delicate balancing act; gain school board and administration approval, excite students about the tour, assure parents that their children will be safe outside the classroom (or the country!), and all the while plan and execute the details of the actual trip. On the other side of the coin: they must also be able to mix in a healthy dose of spontaneity. The problem with this balancing act is that the actual experience of traveling can get lost in the shuffle. The goal of educational group travel is to integrate experiential learning into a relaxed and engaging tour.
It’s About the Experience
Educators by and large are incredibly organized, with carefully crafted lesson plans, schedules and a syllabus to adhere to throughout the year. They are very, very good at planning things. However, as we all remember from our favorite teachers in school – the moments that present something unexpected are often when we learn the most about ourselves and the world. It’s when we forget we are in the classroom (or hopefully when we are actually outside of it!) that we really experience life, the world, and truly learn. It’s the experience, the experiential learning, the seeing , that effectively prepares a student for the ‘real world.’
“The Bus Company Was Great…”
Having worked with numerous small and large educational travel programs, it’s the organization on both ends (the travel company and the educator) that is most appreciated. I enjoy sticking to an agenda to solve problems before they arise. However, when I hear from an educator upon a group’s return that “we got EVERYTHING we had planned on in our itinerary!” or “the bus company stayed on schedule and the hotel had everything we expected for breakfast!” I have to admit I am slightly disappointed. There should be more to the experience than this. We don’t just leave the classroom to have everything happen exactly like it does at home.
Turn It Into a Lesson
This is not to say that organization, good bus companies and quality hotels are not integral to the success of a trip. When both the travel company and educator do the pre-tour planning in an organized and effective way, it allows for more relaxation on the trip and more moments of learning and spontaneity. Think back to your favorite learning moment with a teacher. I am guessing that it wasn’t the fact that they had everything so expertly planned in advance (it was probably done so effectively that it was invisible to you). Instead, it was probably that they were able to react to an event, problem or situation in real-time and turn it into a lesson. This is what I most enjoy about working with educators. By taking care of the organization and logistics, we free up time for them to have these important moments with their students. The more time they have and the less worrying they have to do about the operational side of things, the more present they are able to be.
Educators Working Together
One of the best ways to handle organization for an educational trip is to speak to educators who have gone before you. Learn from their experiences, discuss best practices with them, and make sure the experiential learning (the true goal of an educational tour) is not lost in the shuffle. Integrate a little zen into your educational travel and work with a company that can allow you to let go of the worry that will inhibit the flow of your tour.
‘A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’ ~ Lao Tzu