Discovery Flyover

A coworker walked into my room yesterday morning, while my class was watching the Discovery flyover on TV. She said, “Finally! Someone watching this! Why aren’t the other classes watching this? Other teachers are watching it, but not classes! Why?

I shrugged. Our admin had been sending emails about this event for a month. I figured that was tacit approval, and scrapped my language arts lesson plans. (And heck, even if we didn’t have tacit approval, I was going to have my kids watch it.)

“I really want to tell my intern she should be doing this, but it’s her job to teach without me this week.”

“I know,” I said, nodding. My intern was amazing, and I really miss having her in the room, but it was strange to give up complete control of my class for two weeks.

One of my students raised his hand. “Ms, can we go out and see it?”

“I think they’re too low, over in DC. There will be too many trees,” I said.

“Can we try?”

“Sure, let’s go.”

We headed up to the playground, but as expected, we couldn’t see anything. We headed back inside and finished watching the flyover. We discussed why the shuttle was being retired, what it had done, how it was being flown to us, how they got special permission to fly in restricted airspace, and why fighter jets were accompanying Discovery.

“Ms,” the same student said, “they’ve left DC, can we see if we can see it?”

The map of their route wasn’t released (as far as I could tell), but DC to Dulles is pretty much a straight shot down I-66, and we’re only a few miles from I-66. “Sure, let’s try. But I don’t know if we’ll be able to see it,” I said. “If we do, we are very lucky.”

My coworker had me call for one of her students, the one student she knew would appreciate this. I called him into my room, and grabbed the speech teacher across the hall. We went back up to the playground, and waited.

After just a few minutes, we heard a loud roar. “Is that it?” my coworker said.

“I think it—” I jumped up and pointed, “There it is!”

The Discovery was very low, and it flew so close to us. We had an amazing view of it. The teachers hung back, high-fiving each other, tears in our eyes. Our kids ran after the shuttle, watching it disappear through the trees.

“That was so cool!”

“We saw it! We saw it!”

“Ms, you are the best teacher ever!”

My coworker looked at me. “We didn’t bring a camera.”

I laughed, “So what? We saw it.” I saw some facility workers on the roof and waved to them. They shot us a thumbs up. I flashed a thumbs up back and shook my head sadly. “The only ones.”

We were the only classroom out there.


One of my coworkers said they didn’t watch any of it or go outside because they needed to prepare for the test.

The Test. The Test. The Test.

This morning a parent emailed me, thanking me for taking their son out to the field, thanking me for showing him a bit of “living history.”

When I was in seventh grade, my band teacher had us practice one song, then took us outside for the rest of the period to watch a total eclipse of the sun. We had a spring concert coming up, her version of The Test. She said, “You have band every other day. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

That was nearly twenty years ago.

I hope in twenty years, my kids don’t remember The Test. I hope they remember standing on the field, seeing Discovery on the back of a 747, flying low across the sky while their teacher wiped tears from her eyes.