I recently took a trip to nowhere to keep my airline priority status. My friends found it amusing that I would spend my own nickel and a Saturday during the holiday season to keep the status. My previous job assignment required that I travel to multiple schools weekly. Since I spent more time developing curriculum recently, I traveled less and needed three more flying segments between cities to keep my status for another year. Therefore, I flew to a nearby city and returned the same day. Before my work required frequent travel, I didn’t realize all of the perks that came with priority membership. I really would miss those privileges.
Elite status means I don’t have to pay to check my bags, which saves money. I calculated the return on investment for purchasing a trip to nowhere and determined that I would eventually save money by purchasing a short trip. As an elite airline member, I have seats available to me that other passengers do not have. I am able to board earlier than non-elite passengers are. For road warriors looking for a hassle free experience, early boarding allows ease in storing belongings before the bins are full. This means I save time by having my bags nearby and save travel time. On full flights, late arrivals must sometimes stow luggage to the rear of their seat meaning they must wait until the plane clears and schlep to the back of the plane to collect belongings. A delay when trying to make a connecting flight, make it to a meeting, or arriving late at the hotel sometimes makes a difference. When I call on the airline for service, the airline representative greets me by name. My cell phone number is in the database and they move the order of my call higher in the queue in order to help me with rescheduling my flight in the event of a delay. They use my preference information to book an aisle seat and text the information to me.
When I moved from gold to platinum status, I was surprised to find even more perks – perhaps the most important one when it comes to customer service. They mark my checked bags with a priority tag meaning that my bags might be one of the first to arrive on the carousel, saving time to get to the hotel or meeting. Perhaps the most important platinum benefits are a pack of tickets elite members is a packet of printed slips to reward employees for excellent service. I am not sure what they receive from the airline, but it must be good – because they scramble to help elite members, offering snacks, personally delivered information on connecting flights, and checking to see if one is comfortable.
As I travelled that day, I thought about how my perspective changed when I saw the difference in customer service between being a regular flyer and being an elite member. During my career, I have visited hundreds of schools and classrooms. Some children receive an education that is the equivalent of having elite membership. Schools and school districts offer the offer superior sports programs, fine arts and performing arts programs, and superior academics. The schools offer field experiences, exposing students to a world outside of their neighborhood by visiting businesses and industries and behind the scenes tours and speaking with professionals in the field. Some classrooms have amazing guest artists, and trips to the ballet, the symphony, and museums. Some schools have outstanding science, engineering, engineering, and math (STEM) programs with modern science equipment, planetariums, outdoor classrooms, classroom gardens, and partnerships with local industry and colleges and access to STEM professionals as mentors. Privileged students have access to updated technology and adequate computer access for every student so they do not have to fight for computer time or spend time hand writing assignments that they could type in a fraction of the time. It is similar to knowing I have a place to store luggage on the plane or trying to beat other passengers to the storage bin during a late boarding. In elite-type schools, teachers use technology to teach, record grades, help with homework, provide tutorials and extra help resources for students, and communicate with parents.
My work with children in less fortunate situations is challenging. While I find it thrilling to help schools improve, I sometimes have to convince the teachers, school leaders, and district leaders that there are experiences beyond what they know. They attempt to do the best they can with what they have, but have become discouraged when their requests for teaching materials, time to collaborate, and better professional development are turned down. Some believe that their schools are good enough because they have never seen better schools. Their experiences are much like those of my friends and colleagues who think I’m wasting my time and money travelling to nowhere and back. Many educators and parents do not know what students are missing. If they did, they would insist on quality experiences for every child. They would insist that decision makers and legislators fully fund educational efforts.
In communities in which parents expect an outstanding educational experience for their children, they insist that schools have the necessary facilities, technology, equipment, and the latest professional development for staff. Educated parents do not tolerate poor teaching or leadership. Parents expect no less than the best. They use their resources to ensure the school and or the district takes action to improve the situation. They use their political power to press for improvement. When the budget doesn’t allow for what some believe are extras and I believe are essential, such as violin lessons, piano labs, and foreign language training at all grade levels, parents raise funds to provide these perks. When a classroom or school does not provide the proper environment, parents might resort to moving their child to a class with an effective teacher or switch schools to make sure their children have the best possible education.
Every student deserves an elite experience.