Washington D.C. Tour Leading: Skills Developed and Practiced
Let’s get the litany of excuses for the lack of blogging out of the way:
- I’ve been leading tours of Washington D.C. for the majority of May.
- Blogging hasn’t been prioritized.
- I’m moving to a different state in less than a week.
- I’m packing for 6 weeks of international travel.
There, fine. I said it and it’s all out in the open. My plan to write ahead of time failed! I have been fully immersed in tour leading this month and have loved it! It has been such a wonderful, welcomed challenge. Tour leading has developed and used so many skill sets including:
- People Skills: Adults, students, teachers compose the groups. Each person begins the trip with varying expectations and apprehensions. Relating to the different types of people, gaining their trust, and making sure their expectations are exceeded (not just met) are the responsibilities of a tour leader.
- U.S. History Knowledge: When traveling through Washington D.C., all U.S. history is fair game for questioning. All people, events, and buildings with even a minor tie-in to the past or present workings of our country is on the table.
- Navigation: To be effective, a tour leader must know the efficient routes around the city, where buses can and cannot park, what building entrances groups can use, and alternatives to all of the above in case of a road closing. A few weeks ago, President Obama decided to return to the White House during rush hour at almost the exact time the bus was to pick our group up on 15th street, which had just closed.
- Public Speaking: Tour leaders are relating facts, stories, and directions for days on end. If you have a fear of public speaking, you overcome that very quickly.
- Handling Logistics: There is so much to see in D.C. Figuring out how to fit it all in, while keeping the group interested and happy is certainly a developed skill. Coordinating meals, hotels, buses, night security, etc. also plays a major part.
- Entertainer/Story-Telling Ability: Tour leaders must not just relate facts, but must also entertain and be a great story-teller.
- Fitness: D.C. is best seen on foot, no questions about it. Miles are covered daily
Scholastica Travel tour leaders aren’t city guides who step on the bus, show you around, and then say goodbye at the end of the day. We are with our groups from the time they leave their school until when they return, including at hotels, for all meals, and for all bus travel. These multi-day tour elements certainly add new challenges along the way, but allow you to get to know the people and customize the experience to their interests.
This month I’ve traveled with students who have never left their home state, who have never stayed in a hotel, who have never been to a major city. I’ve also worked with students who likely wouldn’t have an opportunity outside of this trip to experience the nation’s capital. I am so grateful to the teachers who are making these experiences possible for their students and am honored to play a role in the process, to teach and to hopefully inspire.