A Well-Traveled Educator

by Thursday Bram / Apr 16, 2009 / 1 comments

A Well-Traveled Educator

In high school, one of my math teachers was notorious for getting side-tracked into talking about the time he spent teaching in a school on a tiny island in the South Pacific. Sure, calculus is important - but it couldn't hold the attention of a room full of students the way descriptions of Vanuatu could. From how the locals brewed kava to how he and the other teachers caught a long list of local diseases, he could enthrall us. We learned plenty of math in that class, enough that the occasional diversion into our teachers adventures weren't a problem. But, given a choice, I'm sure that those stories have been of far more use to me over the years than calculus ever has been.

My classmates and I all had very set paths in front of us. There was high school, college, and then jobs. At best, we could hope for a semester spent abroad in an appropriate cultural exchange — perhaps a few months in Madrid to work on our Spanish skills or a visit to Venice to polish an art history degree. Before math class, I'm sure none of us had even heard of Vanuatu. Geography class hadn't covered it; the closest any of us had gotten was performing in the school's production of "South Pacific."

But, after a few stories, all of us wanted to have adventures of our own. While France still sounded lovely, we were suddenly aware that we could hop a plane to Thailand or head down to South America just as easily. It wouldn't stop us from following a path towards a career — our math teacher had a stable job, after all. If he could have grand adventures (and they didn't stop just because he took a job in the U.S.), so could his students. He wasn't any different than us: he looked like the stereotypical math teacher. A lot older, maybe even a little geeky — but all of that just made all of us more certain that we could have even bigger adventures.

That was the value of my high school education: the knowledge that I could travel anywhere I wanted, and even land a job when I got there. Since then, I've visited cities around the world. And all it took was a few stories of how my math teacher lived on an island in the South Pacific.



Comments (1)

  • smartpoodle

    15 years 3 months ago

    Thurday, your article is so inspiring. It will make readers everywhere want to get out more. It reminds me of the mom of a woman I used to work with in Denver. She was an elementary school teacher  and saved as much $ as she could during the school year so she could travel around the world during the summer. She did this every year for over 30 years and had unbelievable adventures! She knew how to plan and travel economically. That really inspired me to get out there and learn more about the world. 

    Debbie Glade - Author, Illustrator, Speaker, Publisher
    Smart Poodle Publishing
    The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly; Costa Rica
    [email protected]

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