A few weeks before the spring break I’d start poring over the ads in the back of the union newspaper looking for charter flights. Air Obscure would be flying off to somewhere at $100 or so each way – my taste buds would decide: Belon oysters from Brittany, rijsttafel in Amsterdam, the food court in Harrods, choucroute in Berlin or sfogliatella in Rome, I tried them all.
Some entrepreneur travel agent leased an airliner from a third string carrier and targeted, you guessed it, teachers.
We’d race home from school on the last day of classes before spring break, pack a bag, make sure we didn’t forget our passports and find the terminal – usually in some corner of the airport and off Europe. The charter flight would land at some secondary or tertiary airport – Orly in Paris, Stanhope in London, Tegel in Berlin or Fiumicino in Rome; we’d land at dawn and a sleepy custom official would yawn and stamp our passports, and we’d wonder how we would ever get to our seedy hotels from this obscure airport.
Standing at the Mur des Federes in Pere La Chaise cemetery in Paris … imagining the French troops lining up and executing the last of the Communards.
Spending a day wandering the Floriade, the once on a decade exhibition of every bulb known to man in the gardens of Zoetermeer, the Netherlands.
Crossing over into East Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie…
Wandering the American military cemetery in Cambridge … the endless line of grave sites of airman who died in World War 2.
The Tate, the Jeu de Palme, the Rijksmuseum … the David in Firenze, the Grand Place in Brussels …
And all tax deductible, I think, or, at least the statute of limitations has passed.
I stumbled back to class exhausted and invigorated and a better teacher. I don’t have any data, no one measured the Value-Added test scores of my students before and after each journey, I’d like to think that my enthusiasm passed on to my kids.
Low airfares, a Europass and favorable exchange rates were a boon to teachers; today, exorbitant airfares and punitive exchange rates make overseas travel virtually impossible for teachers.
I read through my travel diary from time to time, smile to myself, we didn’t get paid much but we wandered the world. I argued politics with endless Europeans, both defended and criticized my nation, The Holocaust came to life in the Jewish Museum and Cemetery in Prague, the artwork from the children at Teresienstadt, the Anne Frank House.
Teaching is so much more than writing a good lesson plan, or sticking to the 22 elements in the Danielson Frameworks, it comes from an inner glow, a burning flame.
Maybe instead of merit pay roundtrip airline tickets….?
BTW, have any interesting stories about “tripping the light fantastic” during spring break?
Share an experience in the comment box below: