Teaching as a Travel Agent

Each and every person needs to play an active role in his own development. Paulo Freire used to say that:

No one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. Men teach each other, mediated by the world.

Although this may seem an inviting idea, in practice the teacher still is widely perceived as someone who retains all the knowledge and will simply transfer it to you. In order to better understand Paulo Freire’s idea, we can think of a teacher as a travel agent. It is an ingenious way to illustrate it, I wish it was my idea, but it was John Holt who wrote that some decades ago:

“When we go to a travel agent, he does not tell us where to go. He finds out first what we are looking for. Do we care most about climate or scenery, or about seeing new cultures, or about museums and entertainment? Do we want to travel alone or with others? Do we like crowds or want to stay away from them? How much time and money do we want to spend?

And so on. Given some idea of what we are looking for, he makes some suggestions. Here is this trip, which will take so long and cost so much; here is this one, here is that. Eventually, we choose, not he. Then, he helps us with our travel and hotel arrangements, gets us what tickets and information we need, and we are ready to start. His job is done. He does not have to take the trip with us.

Least of all does he have to give us a little quiz when we get back to make sure we went where we said we would go or got out of the trip what we hoped to get. If anything went wrong he will want to hear about it, to help us and other clients plan better in the future. Otherwise, what we got out of the trip and how much we enjoyed it is our business.” John Holt – What do I do Monday?

When you look for a travel agent, you are taking the first step. Actually, you can plan a trip without even going to a travel agency, that is even more usual. However, the travel agent possesses some information that can make your trip more interesting and productive. Of course that after you choose a destination some of the experiences will be the same for all tourists no matter what. A hot and humid climate, for example, will be the same for everyone. But even in this case, the perception and reaction of each traveler may be very different. But the places you will visit or the food you will eat, it is all up to you.

And the quiz suggested by Holt is not a test for the tourist. Can you imagine, failing for not traveling right? Only the traveler may determine if the trip was good or not. If anyone is being tested is the travel agent. He might want to know more about the trip to include that in his future work or learn from possible mistakes.

As a teacher, support your group but let them do the trip and think twice before giving a test. As a learner, make a point of having first-hand experience and choose your own path.


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