Why do YOUR students need you to travel?
First Off: Vacationing vs. Traveling
Before we start talking about traveling, it’s important that we make a distinction between vacationing and traveling. When I tell people that I love to travel, many people have the image of vacationing in their mind. They think back to their all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, their cruise to Bahamas, or their honeymoon in Ireland, and wonder how a teacher can afford to make something like traveling a “hobby.”
Traveling is not the same as vacationing. The goal of vacationing is usually comfort and/or family memories, whereas for traveling, the goal is exploration and learning. Since your priorities are different, your money is spent differently. Instead of spending $300 a night to hang out in a resort, you’re spending $15 for a double-room in a hostel, and leaving during the day to walk the city or learn to surf. You’re going to a local restaurant recommended by your taxi driver and spending $5 on a spectacularly authentic dinner rather than $40 on a dinner provided by your tour company, marked up purely because it’s catering to tourists. Traveling, rather than vacationing, saves you money.
For me, traveling means getting myself outside of my comfort zone, rather than escaping discomfort.
Traveling takes guts, interest, research, and a willingness to be uncomfortable. The return on investment with vacationing is relaxation and nostalgic memories; the ROI with traveling is self-growth and life-changing memories. They both have a time and a place, but traveling is where my heart is.
While certainly not a cheap hobby, and not something that I’m insinuating every person on the planet can afford to do, traveling does NOT cost as much money as vacationing, and also does not cost as much money as you might think. That means it’s more sustainable, and financially easier to do than vacationing….and that there are more people that can do it than think they can. And that’s just talking about financing your own travels. Did you know that there are actually dozens of scholarships out there for teachers to travel for free? Just Google teacher travel scholarships. It’s actually overwhelming the number of opportunities there are.
Why Teachers Should Travel
1. The first and MOST IMPORTANT reason: It makes you question things you’ve always taken for granted.
I’m not just talking about physical things. I’m talking about the ability to navigate cultural expectations, communicate in your first language, and blend in. When you travel, all of these things are significantly decreased, even if you’re in an English-speaking country.
For many of your students, even students that have lived in this country for as long as you, many of these luxuries do not exist in your classroom. Their families do not have the same cultural expectations that you do. They speak differently or have different social expectations than you. While you might have the best intentions for your students in how you set up your classroom, inevitably, some things won’t match all your students. Best-case scenario, you harness and celebrate these differences as an educator; worst (and very common) case scenario, your students are disciplined for these differences.
It is healthy for teachers to experience the feeling of being a fish out of water and being misunderstood. You learn how to adapt, rather than expect others to adapt for you.
2. You learn about another part of the world.
It makes you better able to connect with families that are from those areas of the world, as well as bring knowledge into your classroom. Kids need their bubbles popped, too. How much more effective is it to show your kids an artifact from another country, rather than just show a picture? Or know your geography because you have memories from the countries you’re teaching about? Traveling adds color to your world understanding, and it will color your students’ world, too when you come back.
3. You become more self-aware:
Once you realize that your customs and habits represent only a small part of the world, you are more in tune to learn about other people’s–including the families in your own classroom.
4. You gain real stories to tell kids.
Though not the sole reason to go abroad, it is a pretty sweet plus. I can explain to kids the fact that the world doesn’t think about the US as we think about ourselves, and facilitate discussion about why that might be. How’s that for sparking discussion about history and current events?
5. You teach kids the importance of traveling:
I make a point to tell kids if I travel during a break, and show them pictures and maps of where I went. I don’t do this to show off; I do this to show them the world of opportunities outside of our town. There are just so many places to see in this world, and so much learning to gain from doing it. I was inspired to travel by my own Spanish teacher that moved to the States from Spain to teach and travel. I never would have had that inspiration if she didn’t talk about her own travels.
6. You have the opportunity to learn a language:
Depending on how long you go, you have the opportunity to practice and learn another language. Not only is language-learning incredibly insightful for you if you teach language-learners yourself, but knowing another language is INVALUABLE. Currently, I am the only teacher in my building, other than our Spanish teacher and a bilingual aide, that knows Spanish. 15% of our school population is ESL. The fact that I’m the only Spanish-speaking general education teacher is MIND-boggling (and I’m not even completely fluent!!). There are just not enough bilingual teachers in this country. If you have a desire to learn, don’t let ANYONE convince you it’s too late.
7. We have longer breaks than many other professions.
Need I say more? It’s practically designed for it. I mean come on. There are so many places and things you can do with that time!
8. It’s important to plan events you’re looking forward to during the year.
I remember that in a sea of advice about interviewing and classroom management, this was the piece of advice my last curriculum professor gave us before we went on our student teaching placements. It is so true. I am happier, more productive, and a better teacher when I have things to look forward to. It’s not that I’m miserable while I’m teaching, but we all know that sometimes the going gets tough. Plan ahead to treat yo’self to something that will take your mind completely off of your classroom.
There are seriously so many reasons to go. And there are a LOT of organizations out there willing to fund it….
Where do you want to go first?
How can I help you get there?
Want some more reading?
Read about why I decided to take these reasons to the extreme and quit my teaching job to move thousands of miles away. I’ve been a bit of a nomad since September 2017, and this post explains why.
Here’s a post with concrete, step-by-step ideas for changing your mindset about work and prioritizing taking care of yourself. For you, for your kids, and for the profession itself.
Even more justification for taking care of yourself. Check out my post where I take apart why self-care can be so difficult to justify, and why it’s one of the most critical things teachers can do for their students.
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maryann gramlich saysJune 6, 2018 at 12:12 am
Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Your article helped me re focus my energies where they should be!