All hands on deck: What a baby’s first flight and collaboration have in common

I witnessed something beautiful the other day. One of those moments that fills your soul and makes you appreciate the good in others.

On a flight to Raleigh-Durham to meet with a group of amazing teachers at the Center for Teaching Quality, I saw a new mom struggling last minute onto our Southwest flight.

What is beautiful about this? The collaboration that followed.

New Mom was the last passenger aboard, squeaking in just minutes before the gate closed. We could hear her before she came into view, because the little pile of chubby curls she carried in her arms was making his presence known, announcing his arrival with a bubbling chorus of squeals and giggles.

She had Junior in one trembling arm, a carry-on diaper bag stuffed to the gills dangling off her shoulder, and a baby carrier in the other. Man, she was struggling. As she hedged down the aisle, teetering on the brink of collapse, a team of passengers jumped up to assist.

One man grabbed her carry-on, delicately guiding it off her shoulder and placing it carefully in the overhead bin (but asking her if she needed anything out of it first).

A flight attendant came and scooped up Junior, making it easier for her to slide into her seat and get settled in.

As New Mom was attempting (unsuccessfully) to buckle in the baby seat, the couple behind her leaned over and showed her how to do it, modeling and talking her through every move so she could do it herself next time.

Then, as babies do, Junior spit up all over the seat (not being a mom, I was intrigued by the amount of fluid that could come out of such a little body). This put another team into launch, as the lady across the aisle whipped out tissues and another good Samaritan hauled to the back of the plane to grab a towel. This helper then returned not only with a towel, but with a cup of coffee for the frazzled mother. I then witnessed New Mom tearing up at the support she was receiving from strangers at 7:30 on an early Monday flight as she profusely thanked all who helped.

But the anecdote is not over yet. This support didn’t stop at take-off.  There was in-flight entertainment for Junior, with about 10 of us oogling, waving, and playing with the baby so mom could take a breath. He even learned how to use (well, look at) at an iPad. And Veteran/Master Mom, who was sitting in front of New Mom, turned around in her seat to offer counsel. More support. Coaching. It was beautiful.

That, my friends, is all hands on deck collaboration. That is the way to work as a team to assist the needs of a child and his family.

This is the brand of collaboration and support we need for every child in our schools. Everyone chipping in, doing their part to ensure success. With resources, modeling, and ongoing support after initial assistance.  We must make sure that in our schools, we are thinking of the children we teach as our children, even if they don’t sit in our own classrooms. We must be willing to jump up and assist our fellow passengers when they are struggling.  It must be all hands on deck.

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  • jenniferbarnett

    What made them do it?


    I adore your beautiful insight in this post and simply can’t resist trying to figure it out. Why is the collaboration you described so easy for us while other collaborative efforts seem so daunting? Does it have to do with the “limited time commitment”? I’ll admit that I’m willing to do more when I know time will be up before I grow weary of the activity. Juggling commitments in our busy connected world gets more and more challenging every day. How much does this impact our willingness to take part in collaborative work?

    Is collaboration enticing because we can actually see the need (or feel, hear, smell, taste it)? Let’s be honest. If those folks on that flight just watched that poor mom struggle without lifting a finger to do a thing to help her, we’d be angry. It would simply be unconscionable.  Yet, I see so many parents struggle with their “older children” just like the mom on your flight. I see teachers in similar situations, desperately trying to serve students without anyone to bring the cup of coffee or to offer support. I imagine the “friend” that mom appreciated the most was the one who asked, “How can I help you?” aware the mom knew exactly what was needed and respected her expertise with the child. Amazingly, that friend was ready to listen to the mom then act on her request. 

    This past year in my district and school we’ve hosted SO many visitors. The feedback we received from our community after seeing and hearing from our teachers and students has been invigorating. We are poised for the type of collaboration you witnessed on the plane, but it won’t happen just wishing it so. As I write this I am struck by the notion that we (teachers, educators in my community) must initiate these efforts. We must let others know we welcome their expertise in our work. I bet that experienced mom had a few strategies for that situation that the new mom hadn’t learned yet. 

    Thanks for sharing such a cool way to think about collaboration. Intriguing to imagine how to orchestrate such a beautiful effort for all children.