Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Teachers are People, too!

Picture this:  Fifty Donegalites board a plane in Philadelphia.  The last advice given is to "Get as much sleep on the plane as you possibly can.  Tomorrow is going to be a looooong day!"

We were assigned to board the plane in GROUP 8.  Translate that to be, the plane was already full, the overhead compartments were stuffed, and I was assigned to row 34 of a 36 row plane, two seats, next to the window, greeted me.  Apparently, the tickets were issued in alphabetical order in our group, placing me next to Liam Hershey, with whom until today, I had never had a conversation.  His goal was a window seat, and my goal was to not fall asleep and drool all over his shoulder while rocketing across the Atlantic.  I offered the window seat on my ticket to him, which he readily accepted.  And then I said,

"So, what's your story?"  

It seemed like I should have at least SOME knowledge of this guy before the inevitable snoring slumber commenced.  Suffice it to say that it was a short and awkward conversation, but was enough to break the ice. Ironically, it would be two lonely suitcases that would prove to be our bonding moment.


We sat on the runway for much longer than expected, and noticed two suitcases sitting, unattended, on the tarmac.  We watched as airport employees and various flashing-light-adorned vehicles seemed unconcerned about their presence, while silently wondering whether someone in our group was currently wearing THE single outfit that they'd be wearing for the duration of the trip, sans luggage.


Despite a couple of guys in a white truck, nobody ever moved the luggage and the suitcases were still there, as we taxied out onto the runway.

For the record, Liam and I came full circle, sitting next to each other again on the trip home -- but in middle seats, with no window view.  After fourteen days, we had more in common than we had on the ground in Philadelphia, despite our initial evening together.  And, for all we know, there may still be suitcases sitting on the tarmac in Philadelphia, awaiting final transfer to points unknown.

No phones at dinner!
Fourteen days is a long time.  It is even longer, when trying to make small talk with kids who basically interact with teachers in a fairly structured manner, seeking information to complete a task.  Over fourteen days, teachers depended on students as much as students depended on teachers, as we explored new sights, braided hair, shared personal stories,  commiserated over blisters and lost wallets, and explored Europe with unadorned wonder on all of our faces.  The number of kind offers by students I barely knew to lift my 48 pound suitcase, carry luggage upstairs, and basically checking on my daily well-being are too numerous to mention, yet I hold the kindness of these kids in my heart.

If you are wondering about the future of the world, I am here to attest that there are at least forty four kids ready to change it, for the better.