Celebrating Collaboration and the Ability to Fly

Last week I flew to the NASSP annual conference in Orlando with connecting flights in Dallas.

Image Source: www.wikihow.com
Image Source: www.wikihow.com

As I boarded my flight home, my mind was filled with new ideas about school, and I began comparing the process of flying to the process of collaboration.
Sometimes when I fly, I feel like the only one on-board who is paying attention to the experience. Perhaps I’m intrigued because I fly so infrequently, or maybe it’s because I’m a teacher at heart. Either way, my fellow passengers usually appear to be sleeping, reading, or staring at phones while I’m all eyes and ears.
I feel the hum of the tires rolling beneath the plane, sense the press of accelerating speed, hear the whoosh of jet engines, and imagine the air pulsating above and below the wings that begin lifting the plane’s nose. In a rush of thought, I’m imagining all the processes it took for this plane to fly:

  • I think about outsourced companies that must have programmed airline scheduling so that planes are allotted times and places around the globe without crashing into one another.
  • I picture airline personnel assigning work times, following FFA procedures, manning cockpits, security details, desks, and grounds so every person is in the right seat at the right time.
  • I see techies, commercial artists, marketers, brand experts, entertainment, and food services blending customer support services so that every passenger has creature comforts while bookkeepers, accounts-payable, CPA’s, staff, and execs are tucked away in corporate offices balancing layers of accountability and the company’s bottom line.
  • And I imagine professionals and service personnel–from engineers to welders–collaborating to manufacture a marvel of mathematics that can lift and land, not just people but all their luggage too.

All of these invisible hands are touching points along the way so that I’m buckled in my seat, the nose of the plane is lifting, and I can feel the hum of planes wheels give way to the buoyancy of flight as I’m on my way home.
When this happens, I’m tempted to stand up, raise my hands, and shout, “Yes, that’s collaboration!”
But instead I quietly sit and try not to nudge my neighbor’s elbow. I look around at the blank expressions of my fellow-passengers and wonder if anyone else is thinking about what awesome things happen everyday when people work together.
At this year’s annual business meeting, Michael Allison, the President of NASSP, remarked, “School leaders are the lynch-pins for guiding school communities.” He explained that we are the ones responsible for tying all the processes, policies, reports, and requirements together with the people most touched by your learning environments: students and communities.


Maybe my fascination with the process of flying is because I’m inwardly cheering how education matters: how each of works together–school leaders, teachers, and staff–to connect incredible processes and designs with student abilities, gifts, and imaginations to create something wonderful.
So thank you educators. Thank you for the work you do every day to help the rest of us fly.

Now It’s Your Turn

Have you taken time to remind teachers and school leaders that their work is vitally important to the success and future of our communities? If not, share this post with them as way to say thank you.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker