Cruiseships and Lifeboats


This is the time of year when many of us begin to plan for fun summer vacations. Inevitably one of the top choices is a luxury cruise. They are relatively inexpensive compared to other vacation choices and they have every amenity known to mankind onboard.

Planning for a school year is very much like planning a vacation. You look at all the possibilities and you purchase as much as your budget will allow. Excursions and Smartboards. Dining plans and textbooks. Luxury suites and new classrooms.

And there is nothing wrong with this.

But while we are spending the bulk of our time planning our cruises, we must not forget to give some attention to our lifeboats.


I have been aware of this for quite some time, but my experiences yesterday just helped me to further solidify this belief.

Yesterday we had grand plans. We had a planned a “cruise” of sorts. We had tickets to attend the first Maryland Bacon Festival in Baltimore and we were psyched! Who doesn’t love bacon? Even better was the fact that we going with another family who we love spending time with, but simply haven’t been able to because of how busy life can be.

Once we arrived in the city it took me a while to figure out where to park, because Vasco de Gama I am not. But I was able to find a spot on the 4th level of a parking garage directly across from the Inner Harbor. Once we parked, we had to rush to the bathroom because my son could not wait another minute longer.

I took my son in the men’s room and waited for an empty stall. My son is in the midst of potty-training and was wearing “big boy” underwear so an empty stall couldn’t come fast enough. Once in the stall my son positioned his tiny 3-year-old frame on the toilet. He had to straddle the seat, but it worked for him. Unfortunately, as soon as he leaned forward, the toilet flushed and it scared him so badly that he was done.

toilet stall

We met my wife and daughter outside and prepared to head on over to the Bacon Festival. The only problem was that my son had not completely emptied his bladder while on the toilet. But he did empty his bladder right then and there. He completely soaked his pants, underwear, socks and shoes. Wow! And did I mention that it was already 1 o’clock and we were all starving?

I ran to the nearest store and bought him a pair of shoes so we could finally get some bacon. He wasn’t having it. He would not let us put the shoes on him. I told our friends to go ahead but they wanted to wait for us because that’s the kind of friends they are. My wife and I have almost 30 years of educational experience between us but we could not convince my son to put on a pair of shoes. I had a feeling this battle might take some time so I finally convinced them to take our daughter and head on over to the festival. Not two minutes later, we, I mean my wife, convinced my son to put the shoes on.

Finally, we were going to get to eat!

We could hear the band playing as we entered the festival and right away I became concerned. The small venue was packed and the majority of the people in attendance seemed bent on drinking, partying or smoking. Furthermore, the lines for every single bacon dish were very very long. The kinds of lines that just can’t happen with young children. The kinds of lines that definitely can’t happen with hungry young children.

long lines

Did I mention that our friend had made us each unique bacon tee shirts just for this occasion? Did I mention that the tickets cost $25 each? Did I mention that we were all starving and by now it was 2 o’clock?

As much as we hated to do it, we decided to cut our losses, eat the cost of the tickets, and walk back to the Inner Harbor to try to find a place to eat.

The first place had a 45 minute waiting list.

Not good!

Oh my!

But the second place, oh the second place! When we asked how long the wait was the hostess told us to wait just a second and she would a clear a table for us.

Excuse me?

Just a second?

Music to my ears.

beautiful music

We had a great time!

The food was great, the atmosphere was great, but more than anything the people were great!

Not once was an unkind word spoken. Not once did anyone lose their temper. Not once did anyone complain about the “Bacon Festival” we didn’t get to attend. We all made the best of the situation and had a great time!

When we woke up yesterday morning we had no idea that we would need a lifeboat. But we did. And it worked out just fine because the people who were on board were close friends of ours who we had built a strong relationship with over the past ten years. Some folks aren’t so lucky. If they are not prepared, then their lifeboat experience can be quite difficult.


I think as we prepare for our future we need to spend a little more time preparing our lifeboat experiences and  a little less time planning our cruises. Planning “cruises” is fun. New computers, textbooks, buildings, Smartboards, etc. These are all great things, and important to the overall school experience.

But they are part of the cruise.

And you can’t fit them all in the lifeboat.

So we must think long and hard about our lifeboat. How we want it to look and how we want people to act once they are on it. Because we will have moments in our classrooms, in our schools, at our jobs during which we will need to hop on them.

This will not be easy and will take time. Building relationships, strong trusting relationships is very difficult. But the time is always well spent. Your classroom will benefit, your school will benefit and your workplace will benefit.

Remember there is nothing wrong with planning cruises, but just make sure you leave some time to prepare yourself and those you lead for these “lifeboat moments”, so that when the time comes, everyone is able to handle them with grace under pressure.

bacon festival







  1. Mmmmm…Bacon!

    Jon you do a terrific job of summing up life. Isn’t always about attitude? You and your wife chose to remain patient with your son. Your friends chose to be kind and stick together. The positive attitude that you all displayed made the day a success (in one way or another). More importantly think about what you did for the kids. As adults you showed flexibility, patience and kindness, wonderful lessons to teach the kids.

    On that note, I’m going to go start cooking some bacon…


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