Well its official…its August and most of us are under one month away from the start of a new school year. As we all begin to prepare for another school year, while still trying to carve out “one more” summer trip and experience, I have questions for you to consider and reflect upon before the school year begins. If you think of a school year like traveling or a trip, which in many ways it really is :), what type of teacher will you be for this year’s “trip”?
Are you going to be a teacher who teaches like a Tour Guide?
Are you going to be a teacher who teaches like a Travel Agent?
When trying to decide, let’s first examine some of the common characteristics of a Tour Guide and a Travel Agent. A Tour Guide has great expertise about their area. A Tour Guide will spend a considerable amount of time and effort increasing their expertise. They enjoy their job. They have real passion and they truly enjoy being an expert/resource for their visitors who need them. Most Tour Guides are very good, enjoyable, and add to the experience. Comparatively, a Travel Agent has great expertise about their area. A Travel Agent will spend a considerable amount of time and effort increasing their expertise. They enjoy their job. They have a real passion and they truly enjoy being an expert/resource for their customers who need them. Most Travel Agents are very good, enjoyable, and add to the experience.
So what’s the difference? How can you decide? I believe the difference does not come from, nor should we question, the passions or purpose for their jobs. Rather the difference lies in what role they play and what role their “learners” play as they experience either a Tour Guide or a Travel Agent. A Tour Guide directs or leads the learning of their group through the experience. During their tour, they will do most of the talking. They tend to be in the front of a quiet, passive group of learners. They set the pace of the learning experience. They have a set routine process or path they follow with each and every group they lead. Their tour tends to be generally the same time after time. They will ask the group if they have any questions, usually at certain times and/or at the end of the tour.
Conversely, a Travel Agent puts their client and their needs first, before they design the experience. Most often, each and every trip they plan is unique or has unique elements for their individual client/experience planned. A Travel Agent asks a lot of questions. The client does the majority of the talking. A Travel Agent provides options and ideas to their clients, but ultimately the responsibility for the decisions and directions for the trip come from the client them self. A Travel Agent uses their vast experience and expertise, but only as it relates to the needs of their individual client and desired experience.
So what type of teacher will you be this upcoming school year – a Tour Guide or a Travel Agent? Or put differently, what type of teacher is most effective and is needed most by your students of today? In my opinion, like many things in life, it is probably a matter of doing both. But I would challenge each and every one of you to be more Travel Agent than Tour Guide. Our students of today don’t need (nor want) someone who just knows a lot of stuff, who spends most/all of their time delivering their expertise, often in a one-way, “Tour Guide-centered” format. They need an expert, but one who can empower them to lead their own learning. To provide for them a safe place to learn and grow, but a place where the path, pace, and, to a large extent, the direction of their learning is determined by them – the learner. Students need highly effective teachers, probably more today than ever before, but we need to be more Travel Agent, than Tour Guide.