I’ve been taking a break from my blog simply because I’m hitting that time of the school year where I feel overwhelmed by everything.  It seems everyone wants my time, my space, and sometimes, you just have to give something up.  As I only have 15 students, I don’t feel like I can turn anyone down on anything, so I keep plugging away.

Another reason for my lack of writing, my wife and I took a long weekend trip, two weekends ago ,to New Orleans.  This was a 20th anniversary trip for us, something we try to do every five years.  We’ve been to Niagra Falls, San Antonio, and for our 15th anniversary, there were a few diamonds purchased. 🙂  However, this is a place I know she’s been wanting to go to and it just kind of fell into place.

I’m not going to go into much about our trip other than it was lush and green and warm and full of different sites, sounds, smells, and so many personalities.  We both commented numerous times just how much different it was than Iowa, which is a good thing. It’s been a long hard winter, and seeing green, feeling humidity, and having new tastes lifted our spirits greatly.

As you may have guessed, there is an educational spin to this writing, there has to be! 🙂  On our plane ride home, as I’m watching the miles tick away, the thoughts of how my experiences were relevant to me in a classroom, as a professional starting popping up (between mini-cat naps and read a book on the dark side of New Orleans).

So, my top five educational take aways from our trip to New Orleans:

1) Be aware

This trip was a huge one for me.  All the big cities I’ve been to, I’ve felt fairly familiar.  St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, even Washington DC, all of these I’ve researched and never felt really nervous about visiting.  For some reason, New Orleans had me spooked.  It’s the voodoo I know, but I was so nervous going in.  However, once there, it was like most other big cities.  You keep your eyes open, be aware of your surroundings, dodge the drunks, and enjoy yourself. The classroom, it’s very much the same way, without the drunks of course! 😉

2) Use the technology

I read a story about someone who used the app FourSquare in Paris.  Having forgotten their travel book, they relied solely on FourSquare and had a better time simply because it’s much more local, giving names and locations of things that aren’t right on the tourist paths way.  I gave that a shot right away in New Orleans as we found thing nasty, dirty little hole in the wall bar/grill down the street from our hotel.  We walked past it thinking we should turn around, but braved going in and had the best shrimp po’boys, and one of our best meals period!  While technology has been pushed into our classrooms for a while now, many “still don’t have time” or “aren’t ‘techie’ enough”.  Ha! We all have to learn sometime! Don’t be afraid of the technology, it can help you!

3) Get up and get moving

Other than Sunday, we were up and going daily either walking or riding the cable car.  The French Quarter was so interesting to walk through, with its unique architecture, people, and small little shops. Saturday night included a walking tour of  “ghosts and vampires” where we learned about some of the history in the Quarter.  We stayed in the Garden District and there are so many incredible houses, gardens, flowers to experience!  We ended up in a cemetery, a creepy experience because many of the dead are “buried” above ground, but we’d not have gotten there (or to this great independent book story) had we not started walking.  Keeping yourself moving around your students, you never know what fun little nuggets of knowledge you’ll find out about them!

4) Try it, you might like it

In addition to the shrimp po’boys, I tried all sorts of new foods because, why not?  The smells and textures of the food are so incredibly different than our Iowa steak and potatoes regiment that we sometimes get on.  The seafood, the rich sauces, the spices, it all created this wonderful background to everything else that was going on around us.  Our classrooms hold many of those some textures, but instead of foods, you have students coming from all parts of the educational spectrum.  Try something new with them, who knows, today might be the day you reach one!

5) In the end, it’s all about the people

From the waitress who called me “honey” and “sugar” to the local who admitted that in New Orleans, “four guys and four six packs on a corner, we call that a festival”, the people make New Orleans what is it.  The wealthy in their suits, busily walking past us without a glance to the street people, people with their donation cans and puppies (yes, puppies), the wedding parades led by walking bands, the jazz musicians toting around their instruments, the Southern drawl all around us, we just drank this in, letting it seep into our pores.  Our classrooms, while not quite that varied, hold so many unique and different personalities, all of whom are looking to us to make that difference for them.  Allow them in, to find that place, and to be there in the moment for them.

We’ll be back, I have no doubt about that.  There’s way too much history in that place for us NOT to return.  We want to see a plantation, take a swamp tour, visit the Gulf of Mexico, and so many other things.  Most of all, we’ll need to allow ourselves that chance to soak all that New Orleans is, because sooner or later, it starts to drift away.  And besides, our daughters want to come with and what harm could come from taking teenagers to a city like that, right?

Ok, maybe not! 🙂