Perspectives (or not as dusty as it seems)

Recently, I traveled by air on two occasions. These were just two of many previous flights where I sat by the window staring out at the landscape below and the skies above. For me, flying is relaxing. If the plane vibrations do not lull me to sleep, the majestic views captivate me.

The two trips differed in landscapes below. One flight flew over the deserts and mountain regions of the Arizona/California border. The other trip took me from my home island of Key West, over the Everglades, on to Florida’s gold coast. As one would expect, the former’s scenery showed vast dusty regions of hard earth. The vast, barren land stretched for hundreds of miles with little to no greenery. On a very rare occasion, a small lake appeared with a brief circle of green. The latter’s view afforded dark green and greenish-brown hues. Flying high above the ground, both views appeared as versions of the early Sim City planning grids.


Stunned by the shear awe-inspiring beauty of the western desert landscape, I did not take a picture. Nor did I trust my picture taking ability to accurately capture what I was seeing. However, the latter trip over southern Florida, I was able to snap a few pictures. Take a look at the picture to the left and ponder what you see.

When I first looked out the window, my side eyed view and past experiences deduced IMG_2946 we were flying through and above clouds. However, looking straight down below the plane, I could see the flames burning through the grasses and shrubbery. These are pictures of a current wild fire. Had I taken these pictures from on the ground, the view would be much different.

During my trip to California, I took a Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ride up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. At an elevation of over 8,500 feet, the temperatures dropped from the low 70s in Palm Springs to frigid 25 degrees. Atop the mountains were snowdrifts and lush green forests! 15 minutes before reaching the top of the tram ride, I stood in a dusty desert with miles of windmill farms and solar panels. Yet, at the top of the mountain, I could smell a forest.

From a distance, I saw and assumed the entire California desert to be dry and barren wondering what wildlife could actually survive. From the plane, I only saw dusty earth. However, close inspection walking amongst the desert showed me many forms of fauna. Plants pushed through cracked earth to find sun and moisture. The mountain was alive with wildlife sustained by the trapped clouds.

So what does this have to do with education? It’s about perspectives! Viewing a family’s circumstance from a distance, educators may form certain perspectives or attitudes. We rely on our experience to inform us how families value their child’s education.   But we often miss the forest fire through the clouds. We must see family engagement from all perspectives. The family that rarely, if at all, visits the school may have a deeper value of education knowing that education is essential to higher wages. The family that seems overly demanding and questioning may have experienced school differently and is trying to better understand. The 30,000 feet view is good for operational planning but may cloud (this post is full of puns!) one’s view.

Pardon me as I take a personal aside. This post is based on three recent experiences. I intend to write about two: family engagement planning & professional development and organizational planning from 30,000 feet. The third, and probably most influential to the plane analogy, is a blog posting from my college-aged cousin who is blogging about her journey into adulthood. As I sat on the plane waiting for taxiing and takeoff, I read one of her recent posts about her first flight ever. Kaitlyn, thank you for giving my post wings. Off we go into the wild blue yonder!