Triple Traveling Teacher is “Addicted” to Travel
We admire every teacher who takes on the (super fun and rewarding) job of leading student travel programs. But Randy Martin gets our admiration not once, not twice, but THRICE! This eighth-grade social studies teacher led three trips this year. What began ten years ago as a single trip to Washington, D.C. with his U.S. history students has snowballed into educational travels to Central America and Western Europe as well. We connected with Mr. Martin to learn more about the programs he led, why educational travel is important to him, and what continues to fuel his (and his students’) wanderlust and quest for knowledge.
WorldStrides: Wow! Three trips in one year. You are a busy guy! Tell us a bit more about the programs you led this year.
Mr. Martin: As an 8th grade U.S. History teacher, a Washington D.C. trip is a natural and obvious choice to help extend my classroom teaching. Over the last decade, I have been working with WorldStrides to craft a trip that directly connects and naturally extends the content of my class. During these 10 years, however, my own wanderlust and desire to show students more of the world has led me to doing student tours outside the United States. This year, we have added Costa Rica (with our sister company Explorica), as well as a trip to London, Paris, and Madrid to our travels.
WorldStrides: Ok, maybe this is an obvious question, but why three?
Mr. Martin: Between Washington D.C, Central America, and Western Europe, I can offer all the students at our school hand-tailored educational trips that meet their academic, social, and cultural interests. Between each of these trips, new opportunities to study history, biology, geography, geology, and language have become available to our students. Perhaps even more profoundly, however, is that, through these trips, the students will be learning about themselves, expanding their perspectives and understandings, and become lifelong learners.
WorldStrides: Tell us more about why it is important to you to take students on educational travel programs. How would you say traveling enhances what you teach in the classroom?
Mr. Martin: Traveling with students is one of the most important educational opportunities we can offer. The power of walking with our students through places that we study in class can be seen in the faces of each student as they are having their minds blown by the realization that the things they learned in class are, in fact, real, and often so much more grand than they imagined. This is compounded by the deep, probing questions they ask when standing right next to something they remember from the classroom, and you are there to help guide them to the answer. This, however, is just the beginning of why it is important to travel with students.
Oftentimes, my students ask me insightful and profound questions that I do not know the answer to, and, in traveling together, we get to learn together. Having the students see their own teachers learn right along with them shows them the power and importance of being a lifelong learner.
Additionally, traveling with students is the key to developing an understanding of diverse perspectives. Mark Twain said it best when he wrote that “travel is fatal to prejudice”. Whether I am in Washington DC, Costa Rica, or somewhere in Europe, the new understandings and perspectives my students and I gain always makes us new and better people. We are never quite the same people that we were each time we return from a trip.
The beauty of traveling with WorldStrides is that I never have to worry about the quality, content, rigor, or logistics of our trip. I have traveled with three different student tour companies, and each had their strengths, but the ease of working with WorldStrides has allowed me to enjoy the experience of student travel, knowing that everything has been taken care of, and every possible problem has already been solved. I have found that, if there is an issue that is out of my control (weather, political unrest, etc.), WorldStrides already has a solution before I am even aware that there is a problem.
Traveling with WorldStrides permits me to be a teacher and a learner, right along with my students.
WorldStrides, therefore, helps me fulfill my own personal wanderlust and desire to learn while expanding on my classroom teaching at the same time. Ultimately, each trip provides me with new content knowledge and materials that I can bring back to my students. When these trips and the content knowledge they provide are combined, year after year, the result is a dramatic increase in classroom rigor, student learning, and student engagement. Additionally, these trips have provided me with concrete data that proves an increase in student interest in the class content as more and more students and parents sign up for the trip each year.
WorldStrides: Your students must think you are the coolest. What kind of feedback so you hear from those who have traveled with you?
Mr. Martin: The students are always blown away by their experiences. In the short-term, during or right after our trips, the students have told me, their friends, and their parents things like, “It’s all real! What Mr. Martin taught us actually happened, and I know, because I was there!”
Perhaps most profoundly, however, is the long-term feedback I get from the students who have traveled with me. Routinely, I get messages and emails from former traveling students years later, writing to tell me of how educational travel has opened their minds to new ideas and perspectives, and that our experiences together opened the world to them.
They end up doing things like educational exchange programs abroad or getting jobs related to things they learned while traveling with us. A couple of great examples include one of my students who originally had no idea what she wanted to do when she “grew up”. She went to Washington D.C. with me and met one of our Senators, Tom Udall, while there. She talked to Senator Udall, who was on the Foreign Relations Committee at the time, and became enraptured in their conversation about ISIS and peace in the Middle East. She is now graduating with a degree in political science and peace studies with the goal of working towards international relations and the promotion of global peace.
Another student once emailed me out of the blue, five years after our trip. She reported that our travel experiences had left her hungry for more, and told me that her and her best friend had decided to spend a year traveling through Europe to study history and culture. She wanted some advice on what to see and do while there, and made it clear that, without the experience of educational travel, she would have never been brave enough to go and learn abroad.
WorldStrides: No wonder you keep traveling with students – how rewarding! So, what would you say to a teacher who is considering leading a program?
Mr. Martin: The idea of traveling with students is certainly frightening at first, but WorldStrides does a great job of helping you design a program that meets your educational standards and holds your hand through the whole process – before, during, and after your trip.
They make it so easy and fun that you will quickly become addicted to the idea of student travel, and your next trip won’t me a matter of “if”, but a matter of “when”.
Best of all, however, is that when you travel with your students, you really get to know who they are beyond the walls of your classroom. One of the most rewarding experiences I recently had on tour involved a special needs student who traveled with us. In class, he mostly just sat there, rarely did any work, never said anything, and skated by with a D on his report card. While on tour, however, he followed me closely, continuously asking great questions, making connections with what he learned in my class to what he was seeing and experiencing while on tour. If he had not come with us, I would have believed that he just sat in my class and never learned a thing. Having him there, however, proved not only that he did learn a great deal in class, but showed just how smart of a critical thinker he was. It is students like him that will keep you traveling, year after year!