People Watching

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Trish Prentice

July 27, 2018
Issue: 
#524

I love to watch people, and airports are a perfect place to do so. Because my husband travels quite often, I was recently able to receive priority access on a flight to visit my sister. After finding my seat, I began to watch the steady stream of passengers as they snaked down the aisle next to me. It was an eclectic bunch.

I started to wonder about and imagine each person’s story.

  • The gal with the straw hat, dark tan, and relaxed face must be traveling home from some faraway island.
  • The young couple stealing a kiss are probably on their honeymoon or a weekend away from the kids.
  • The tattooed guy probably rides to his warehouse job on a big, noisy motorcycle.
  • The noisy children with mouse ears—yes, I know where they’ve been, and please don’t sit behind me.

Although this may be a fun game to play to pass the time, I remind myself that the tattooed guy might really be a CEO on his way to a business meeting. Assumptions based on first impressions can be wildly inaccurate. That’s true whether we’re in an airplane or a classroom. But how many times have we picked up our class list and made assumptions just by looking at the assortment of names before us? Do we have preconceived ideas based on previous experience?

As students arrive and we see that some are well dressed, whereas others are in mismatched, ill-fitting clothes, do we speculate on their life at home? Truth is, we don’t know the facts. Until we spend face-to-face time with our students, we won’t know their story.

But isn’t that discovery one of the exciting things about teaching? Each year is an opportunity for a brand-new group of people to come together and share themselves. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, because this group, at this age, with these life experiences, is unique. There will never be another community just like this one again. Who knows what wonderful things will happen. Be open, be ready, and be thankful for this incredible journey.

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