The Teacher as Tourist

We have all met tourists. Tourists are the people we see with fanny packs and cameras around their necks; they usually stick to the popular attractions listed in the guidebooks. They hope to stay safe and to return home with fun pictures and happy stories. Tourists ask a travel agent to plan their trip for them or they ask for suggestions from the concierge at the hotel or resort where they are staying. People in the tourist category take the tour bus out to see the sights, getting the obligatory pictures at each of the stops, returning at the end of the day to the safe “bubble” of their lodging. Tourism departments advertise and seek to recruit tourists, highlighting the sights to see and the experiences to enjoy. Tourists look forward to the trip, but they don’t like surprises.

A vivid example of a tourist came from my experience while through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. While in Yosemite, I clearly recall walking one morning to get coffee and breakfast and seeing a long line of happy campers with their cameras, day packs, and hiking boots waiting for a ride to the trailhead. That long bus trip and day hike would be enough for them. They could snap pictures of El Capitán, Half Dome, and Double Falls. Because I was on a rest day, I was able to watch each of these tourists return home safely that evening and fill the restaurant, sharing stories over their meals. Having already hiked over nine hundred miles, I was content to spend the day resting and reflecting. I was a seasoned hiker at this point, no longer a day hiker in need of a tourist experience.

Not to be unkind, but I think there may even be a subgroup of tourists to whom we might give the name “duke and duchess” tourists. I am sure one could find some wonderful real dukes and duchesses if one looked, but I use this title because I want to convey a certain picture. I have actually met such people. They want to see what other tourists want to see, but they really don’t want to see poor people on their way there. In some cases, they may want to taste some local delicacies, but only if the food they eat at home remains available as a backup. At their worst, they want some modern-day equivalent of being carried in a litter by four locals.

Duke and duchess tourist teachers are the ones who complain when they have students with challenging academic, physical, and behavioral needs in their class. These teachers want the “good” kids who come from “good” homes. With supportive parents, these students are the ones who will stay on task and work hard with little need for external motivation. Similar to tourist mountain climbers who pay for the Sherpa to guide and carry their things, ensuring they have a memorable experience at the peak, these teachers want things arranged for them to guarantee that their jobs go smoothly.

Are there really teachers who want everything done for them? Perhaps there are a few, but I think most seek other work once they discover that, while a noble profession, teaching is also one of the hardest. The protagonists in a few teacher movies tend to have a duke or duchess colleague, but we recognize those characters as stereotypes.

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