First Class Fish Out of Water

Fish out WaterI just returned from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Conference in Orlando, Florida. You can read my brief blog on my takeaways here if you are so inclined.  I was fortunate that my district covered the costs for the conference, hotel fee, airfare, and meals. At the last minute, I thought it would be fun to use my OWN funds to bump my airline ticket to first class, it was a fair fee that I could afford since my ticket was already taken care of.  That is where this “fish out of water” story begins. As I reflected on this experience and told it to my family, I began to realize the parallels my experience has with some of our students and families at school.

In my defense: Please keep in mind that I have two college degrees. I lead a school of 1060 students and 136 staff members relatively well. I organize and execute a family calendar of five very active and involved people. I once led a party of 12 through 5 days of Disney World and 1 day of Universal. No one on that trip missed a ride or show within my power-we won’t discuss that 3 of them bailed for a nice restaurant and pool time. These facts gave me a false sense of knowing what I was doing.

  1. Checked Baggage Surprise

My flight left at 7:35 a.m., I was walking into the airport at 6:40 a.m.-plenty of time to check my bag and grab a Cafe Mocha and pastry from Starbucks. Upon checking my bag, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that United wasn’t going to charge me $25 for my checked bag. I thought I had read that there was a fee but maybe I was wrong! Yay! As it turns out, when you fly first class you don’t have a checked bag fee. I only figured this out on my non first-class return trip when I was charged the $25. You won’t be surprised to find out that the Starbucks line was long, even though it was an early Sunday morning, which had me arriving to my gate after boarding had begun.

2. Boarding

When I arrived at the gate they were boarding Group 1. Naturally, I thought that First Class meant Group 1 so I took my place at the end of the Group 1 line. Wrong. The kind gentleman next to my right at the start of Group 2, let me know that I had “Premier Access” and should go ahead of everyone else. That felt like cutting the line but I did it anyway.  I found my seat fairly easily, it was 2E. 🙂

3. First Class Food and Drink

I really had no idea they served an actual breakfast on a real tray with real silverware. The flight attendant asked me which I preferred “Yogurt, fresh fruit, and cereal” or “Kale, blah, blah, blah”. I only heard yogurt and kale-both of which I don’t care for. Plus I had already scarfed down a piece of banana nut bread so I was good to go. The kale dish ended up being some sort of quiche and actually looked and smelled very good-too late for me though!

4. Hot towel?

Right before everyone else received their food, the flight attendant came around with a hot towel offering. I took one because why not but I had no idea why I needed a hot towel.  Should I wipe my face with it? I don’t want to do that because I actually put on make-up.  Does it go on the back of my neck for relaxation? Thankfully right before I put in on my neck, everyone around me began wiping their hands with the towel. So happy that social cues exist!

5. The seat tray

Airplane seat trays have always been on the back of the seat in front of me with a handy little latch that you move to the side and down comes the tray. First class seat trays are a hidden mystery. The gentleman next to me who seemed very well versed on the mysteries of first class helped me locate it within the armrest, and showed me which buttons to push to get it to release. He failed to let me know that there was a tray extension which slammed open when I laid the tray down.

6. Windows

Why does no one in first class open the window shade?? The entire flight they remained down and when the kid in front of me (he had a parent helping him with first-class knowledge) tried to open his shade, he was quickly reprimanded to put it down. Why?

The rest of the flight was fine but I felt way out of my element. I thought I had empathy and patience for students whose first language isn’t English, for students who have norms at home that are far different than school norms and don’t get that right away, for students who don’t have social norms, for parents who are fearful or mistrusting of schools and don’t understand the educator lingo. I now have a far greater understanding of what it means to feel like a fish out water!

On the return flight, I opted to stick with my Economy ticket. Upon boarding, I was greeted with fighting siblings sitting behind me and I was sitting next to a young mom with a fussy baby. Aww, THE LAND OF MY PEOPLE!  It was truly a glorious flight home!

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