Whether it’s your first or fifth educational tour, it’s important to set some time aside to think through what type of Tour Director would connect best with your travelers. Just as each group is different, each Tour Director brings a unique personality and approach to the table for a one-of-a-kind travel experience.
I caught up with Tour Director Rick R. to tell us more about his favorite parts of leading educational student tours and what he does to make sure you and your travelers laugh, learn and make lasting memories.
KB: Let’s start with an easy one. What’s your name and how many tours have you led with EF Explore America?
RR: My name is Rick Reams. This is my 20th year working with EF as a Tour Director and I’ve led over 100, 120.
KB: And this is actually your part-time job, right? Can you tell me about your full-time job?
RR: I am a schoolteacher, down in Virginia. I am in my 34th year of teaching and it’s my final year. I’m retiring and get to be a Tour Director full-time with EF, starting in 2016.
KB: How do you think being a teacher enhances your ability to be a good Tour Director?
RR: Well I definitely think being a teacher is an advantage for me, because being a Tour Director, one facet is teaching. You’re just not teaching in a classroom with the standard textbooks and tools, but rather teaching in front of what you’re talking about. So, for me, it’s actually the best part of teaching, because I’m interacting with the kids, live in front of the history.
KB: What Explore America tours have you led and what are your favorites?
RR: I frequently visit Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Williamsburg, Virginia. My favorite tour is probably the Eastern Seaboard tour, because it’s like going to a restaurant and getting a sampler platter. You get to visit three, four different cities, you get a sample of each of those cities, and it’s just fun to keep traveling.
KB: Why do you think it’s important for teachers to travel with their students? Why is it important for students to travel?
RR: I think it goes without saying. You can show them movies in class. You can go on computers and take virtual tours, but nothing replaces actually being there, seeing it in person, experiencing it with your teacher, and just to see the rest of the world, because even around the United States, we’re so different. When you take a group of students from a small town into New York City, it’s like they’re in a whole different universe, and I think it’s important that they see that there’s another side to life.
KB: What does it mean for a teacher-student relationship to be traveling together outside of the classroom? How might it enhance what happens inside the classroom?
RR: They get to see a different side of that teacher than the one that they see for one period every day in their school. They get to see that teacher as actually a human being that likes to have fun, that likes to do interesting things. So, it really gives that student a different perspective on that classroom teacher, and I think it also makes the student really respect and appreciate the teacher for the experience that they’ve provided for the students.
KB: How have you developed relationships with Group Leaders over the years?
RR: Oh, it’s so easy to develop relationships with the Group Leaders. Being a teacher myself, I think we instantly bond when we meet, because I know where they’re coming from, what they’ve gone through to put this group together. So, I have quite a few Group Leaders that do request me year after year. Some, I’ve been working with for about eight, nine, ten years. I’ve even gone to visit them and they take me on tour in their hometown, which, it’s kind of nice having the roles reversed.
KB: How do you work best with a group? What is that relationship like?
RR: I also like to use humor with my Group Leaders and chaperones, as well as the students. So, I have one Group Leader that I’ve traveled with now for about eight years, and every year he sets me up in pre-tour meetings, for my jokes. So, he starts prompting me, Rick, it’s time for a joke, Rick it’s time for a joke [LAUGHTER], so with him I have to have my bank of jokes ready to go.