You’ll learn a lot about your students the first time you travel with them. Even the students you’ve made a strong connections with throughout the years will surprise you with their obnoxious snoring, questionable table manners or intense fear of small spaces. You’ll see your students in a whole new light when you all leave the classroom and venture to a new place together. Traveling in general can make people tired and grumpy, but traveling with people who you’ve never seen tired or grumpy, and who have probably never seen how you get when you really have to go to the bathroom or how anxious you get when you think you’re going to be late, can add a whole new level of crazy to your travel experience. But you signed up to experience a new place with your students because you’re passionate about their education, about their life experiences, and because you’re pretty certain you can handle it. Here are 3 ways traveling with your students may drive you nuts, but will also make you a better professor in the long run.
You Get To Know Your Students. Really Get To Know Them.
It is always interesting/scary to get to know what your students are like when they aren’t being your students. You feel like you’ve got a pretty good idea of their personalities; you know which ones are shy, which ones are more extroverted, the consistently late ones, the know-it-alls, the jokesters. But traveling with them gives you a peek into who they really are. You’ll learn quickly who some of the students are before their third cup of coffee, or which students don’t know how to read a map or are obsessed with taking selfies. The preconceived ideas you had about them based on your interactions in the classroom will probably go out the window after a few days of traveling with them. Sometimes, the informal environment will allow you to see incredible qualities in students that didn’t come out in class, while other times you may find out things you can’t ever “un-know.” The bright side: traveling with your students helps you to get a better understanding of who they are, which may help how you relate to them in the classroom.
You Share A Lot Of Small Spaces
Whether you are in front of a typical size classroom or giant lecture hall, it’s safe to assume that you are able to maintain a comfortable distance from your students on a daily basis. They have their bubble, you have yours, and they typically don’t cross. Well, that goes out the window when you travel together. Planes, trains, taxis and rental cars aren’t built with personal space in mind, so you’re going to get close, real close, to your students. You’ll be sharing a lot of things with your students that you don’t normally share (like bathrooms and armrests), but it just comes with traveling. Although sometimes it may feel like you’re getting too close for comfort, sharing this intimate space with your students opens up opportunities for intentional conversation, teachable moments, and interpersonal connection; things that you may not get to do a lot of in a larger environment.
You’re Still “On”
Unlike traveling with your spouse or best friend where you can completely unwind and relax when you travel, traveling with students means you still have to maintain a level of professionalism even if you’re out of the classroom. Although you’re in a new place and enjoying a more relaxed learning environment, you’re still the mentor and the professional, and you never get to really turn that off. It’s important to strike a balance between leading them as an educator and enjoying yourself as a tourist. You don’t want to do anything that could cause them to see you in a questionable light (so shots on the bar is a no-go) so you’re still “on stage” even though your “stage” is miles and miles away. The good news: you have the unique ability to further their education and connect with them on a more personal level while demonstrating maturity and professionalism.
From the moment you decided to venture outside of the lecture hall and take your students on an educational adventure, you knew there were going to be facets of the trip that would be less than comfortable. You know that traveling can bring out the best and worst in people, but you signed up anyway because a trip with this crazy group is worth it.
They may catch you drooling on a red eye flight, or you may quickly learn who uses too much perfume or not enough deodorant, but these things all help you connect with your students. This personal connection makes you a stronger and more connected professor that can touch their lives in unique and memorable ways.
Written by Diana Eastman