chelsea headingIt was a lucky chance that I happened to be near the security gates at the airport when a very large group came in. As a retired teacher/principal it was not very difficult for me to spot that it was some kind of school group. There appeared to be close to a thousand small bodies... Ok, maybe not quite that many but there were many people five feet tall and under. They were accompanied by many parents who had this look on their respective faces that said, “Am I really doing this?” After the obligatory hug the small people ran into the security area. Have you ever seen a child of that approximate size and of a young age who did not run everywhere that was more than three feet away?
Just as I got close a young girl was hugging her dad as quickly as she could so she could run and join “everybody else.” He and I made eye contact so I got the chance to speak to him. “ As a retired teacher I just have to ask, what is this group?” He had a wide grin on his proud face and told me it was a fifth grade group going to Spain.
“Spain? Going to Spain, “ I all but shouted. And, of course, I mentally quoted the line from the Dr. Seuss poem: “Oh, the places we'll go.” I think of that often when I have my two little ones with me. The excitement was almost a physical thing and after having taught fifth graders for long time, I pretty much knew how they were feeling and acting and some of the things they were saying.
I did not bother the father any further as his 10/11 year old child was about to board a very large aircraft, some of which has been know to fall out of the sky, and travel to another U.S. city and get on a bigger aircraft. From there it is another 8+ hours to Spain. There were times when I would have sent my entire fifth grade class to Spain or Siberia or somewhere, but I usually just gritted my teeth as the next day was an entirely different world to them and yesterday may not have even happened. But they were about to enter real life.

Seuss: “Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

As you may imagine, I can get excited when kids are off for new adventures. There are so many things to see and do and learn that I actually yearn to go with them so they will miss nothing. But, he adds quickly, I know real life has a way of interfering and catching up with dreams. This particular group will learn quickly that the whole world does not speak American and there are people who cannot understand them. “What? But I asked her three times how much this cost and she just looked at me!” Some lessons are best learned up close and personal.
There is something about traveling that awakens parts of the spirit, brain, consciousness, or ‘whatever’ to know that there is more to the world than the mall or Wal-Mart. Real people live in those funny named places that boring ol’ teacher mumbled about while you were passing notes. Real people living real lives are in those strange named cities and they have never heard of XYZ elementary school - or care about it. But going there and seeing, hearing and touching all of that is such a wonderful experience that one should never turn down a chance to go. My grandson is in the Czech Republic with the USA Champion kayak team competing against all of Europe. I hope he wins a dozen medals but, to this old man, that is not as important as all he will learn without knowing it.The people, the way they dress, the way they treat strangers, their polite society will all be different from Oklahoma. “Oh, the places we’ll go.” And to all those little kids and any of you big kids.

Dr. Seuss has more advice:

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!