Guest post by Paul Hermes

Now that the end of the year is upon us and many of us are taking a well-deserved break from our demanding jobs as school administrators, I find myself thinking about summer vacation and the many lessons all of us have learned from the various excursions we have taken throughout our lives. Traveling helps us gain new perspectives and understandings of people, places, and cultures. My travel has included experiences led by tour guides and those arranged by travel agents that were self-guided. Both ways have offered me exciting experiences that expanded my knowledge and broadened my worldview.

As I think ahead to the coming school year, I imagine what it would be like if teachers led students through a year of travel. But which type of travel leader is best: a tour guide or a travel agent?

Both tour guides and travel agents should be experts in their respective fields. They typically have passion and truly enjoy being a resource for travelers. So, what’s the difference? How can you decide? I believe the difference does not come from—nor should we question—the passion or purpose for their jobs. Rather the difference lies in what role they play and what role their “travelers” play as they follow 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 front of a quiet, passive group of learners. They set the pace of the learning experience. They have a set process or path they follow with each and every group they lead. Their tour tends to be almost the same time after time. They will ask the group if they have any questions at certain times or at the end of the tour.

Conversely, a travel agent puts the travelers and their needs first before designing the experience. Most often, each and every trip plan is unique or has unique elements. A travel agent asks a lot of questions; the traveler does the majority of the talking. A travel agent provides options and ideas, but, ultimately, the responsibility for the decisions and directions for the trip rests with the traveler. A travel agent uses vast experience and expertise, but only as it relates to the needs of the individual and the desired experience.

When it comes to education, students need both tour guides and travel agents. But I would challenge each and every one of you to be more travel agent than tour guide. Today’s students need experts to share knowledge, but they also want teachers to help empower them to lead their own learning. Next time you are talking with your teachers, ask them to consider trying to be more travel agent than tour guide.

How can school leaders help teachers and schools offer students a travel-agent education experience?

Paul Hermes is the associate principal of curriculum and instruction at Appleton North High School in Appleton, WIHe believes being an educator is the most important profession in the world and has dedicated his life to improving the lives of students, families, and communities. He was the 2016 Wisconsin Associate Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHermesEDU and visit his education and leadership blog, Analogies from an Administrator.

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