Flight Safety Videos to Teach Classroom Procedures? Huh?

I love inspiration! And, I needed it at the beginning of the school year when my new principal wisely said that we must spend the first week of school teaching rules, procedures and expectations. Seriously? How boring! I want to start educating my students now!

Did you notice that I said wisely said? As much I like slowly teaching procedures over the course of a few weeks so that my students can start learning, I know that teaching rules, procedures, and expectations the first week of school is backed by research and experience. Harry Wong's First Days of School immediately comes to mind.

The reason why I had wanted to start teaching the first week of school is because I teach at a junior high. My students have 6 different teachers all teaching rules, procedures, and expectations on the same day. Seriously! My students will tune me out! They will sit respectively because these are the first days of school, but they will sleep with their eyes open.

This is where inspiration is important. Our school had professional development training on the Monday and Tuesday before our Wednesday first day of school. Our new principal covered academic goals, urged us to become champions for our students, and emphasized how rules, procedures, and expectations save lives.

Then our new principal had us watch the following video of air traffic control on 9/11. 

She asked us to reflect on how it was possible to land thousands of planes on September 11, 2001 when our nation faced a terror attack. At the time, no one knew if more planes were destined to be weapons. I distinctly remember our school counselor notifying each teacher that a plane destined for Los Angeles was missing. The how planes landed so quickly was obvious; the airline crews and their passengers followed protocol - rules, procedures, and expectations - and landed their planes with the help of air traffic control.

After we reflected on this time-lapsed visual graphic, our principal asked us to watch a second flight-themed video.

Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger did not see himself as the "hero" who saved the plane. This humble man recognized that he was part of a system, a crew, a team that needed the help of each and every person on board to safely land the plane on the Hudson River. And, while we hope that airplane accidents never occur, we know that emergency protocols followed by crew members and their passengers do save lives.

But wait! Education is not an emergency! We cannot live in emergency mode! Rules, procedures, and expectations are followed to avert most emergencies.

Not true.

Rules, procedures, and expectations are followed to ensure a smooth ride to our destination.

The Thursday before school started, I flew from Los Angeles to Seattle for a beautiful wedding. We followed rules, procedures, and expectations as we boarded the plane, placed our luggage in overhead compartments, and took our seats. We then rolled our eyes and prepared to tune out the flight safety video that we had viewed a million times.

But this was our first time on a Virgin America airplane. We had not seen their flight safety video before! Our heads tilted to the side in fascination as we placed our full attention on their rules, procedures, and expectations' video.

Then on the following Tuesday, back in California, my new principal and Virgin America inspired my first days of school lesson.

Teaching rules, procedures, and expectations can be tedious. Few school rules have changed since, let's say, 1988. When they are taught in the class every single year they can look like this 1988 Pan Am Safety Video.

As we watched, the students and I created a t-chart of the elements discussed in the video. We were shocked that passengers could smoke on an airplane in 1988! Not in the lavatory, of course, but they could smoke cigarettes in their assigned seat. But I digress.

Next we watched the Virgin America Flight Safety video. I really tried not to show bias, but the video made me sing, rap, and dance. My hair bun came undone because I was having too much fun doing karoake. Some brave thirteen-year-olds even dared to sing, rap, and dance with me!

Did you notice that the vast majority of elements discussed in the 1988 video were also discussed in the 2015 video? In fact, we only found two differences - 1) no one can smoke now, 2) and we have electronic devices that must be stowed during take-off.

This is when I started the serious mode. I sat down in a comfortable chair as we discussed the "no electronic devices during take-off" rule. I acknowledged that the rule was very controversial, but the flight crew has their reasons for this rule, which we discussed.

We then discussed the 3-second fight/dance move at "the plan of attack" (2:41) included in the Virgin America flight safety video. This moment led perfectly to my theme. No, I am not talking about emergency landings; instead, I am referring to disruptions in flight, also known as disruptions in learning.

When a passenger becomes disruptive as the plane (lesson) is about to take off, the captain (teacher) may have to turn the plane around so that passenger (student) can be removed. This affects everyone on the plane. Everyone experiences the slight flight delay.

When a passenger becomes disruptive to the point of violence while the plane is in the air, the crew members must subdue the passenger and the captain must make an unscheduled stop at the nearest airport. Even if no arrest is made, everyone's travel is altered. 

The passenger who wanted to watch the Seattle Seahawks play against the Denver Broncos, can't attend the game. The passenger who wanted to visit the incredible Day Break Star Center in Discovery Park, cannot experience its serenity. And, that beautiful Dr. Who and dragon-themed wedding at the Swantown Inn? Well, the disruptive passenger messed up a total stranger's wedding.

All of this is theoretical, of course, because our Virgin America flight landed with only an hour delay due to fog.

Education is like a plane trip. We move from one destination, our five-year-old uneducated minds, to new destinations such as junior high, high school, college, and our future careers. We know that delays occur; however, we expect those delays to be small. When those delays become longer or a flight cancelation occurs, we get angry. Rules, expectations, and procedures minimize those delays and cancelations.

My thirteen-year-old students seemed to understand the connection, and we moved onto establishing our own classroom rules, procedures, and expectations. Every passenger in my classroom deserves to be treated with respect by the flight crew, which includes myself and my fellow educators.

As we treat our customers respectfully by modeling positive behavior, we ensure that our students have the best possible experience.

However, we must be firm when our students insist on violating the rules, expectations, and procedures. We must expect that the inappropriate behavior will change. This is not a private jet; rather, we have hundreds of other passengers we must consider.

We educators show our "flight" safety videos at the beginning of each year not because the rules dramatically change, but rather because we need to ensure that we arrive to our next destination in May.

Thankfully, new principals and highly competitive airlines provide inspiration to keep our students from sleeping with their eyes open during "flight" safety videos.

Flight Scott Grade 8 has now boarded and is en route to high school.We expect to land in May with no disruption.


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