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Meet Wilbur and Orville

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Meet Wilbur and Orville, or as they are more commonly known, the Wright Brothers. They are the first people to take flight - reaching a distance just shy of the length of the Titanic (before the ‘unsinkable’ ship split in two and sank). Buoyed by their success, they tweaked it, made improvements and with iterative steps made Wright Flyer II and then Wright Flyer III. Despite not seemingly having the ability for naming aircraft, the siblings’ next plane was a record breaker. On 5 Oct 1905, Wilbur flew 24 miles in 39 minutes, longer than the total duration of all the flights of 1903 and 1904 in Flyer I and II. They had hit on the art of flying high!

The Wrights disassembled the Flyer III on 7 Nov 1905 and stored it until the spring of 1908. They were concerned that others would see this magnificent flying machine and copy it before they had redeemed their financial investment. Once rebuilt (sometime later) and knowing that it would need to carry more than one person to make money, they added a lighter, more powerful motor and a new control system. Subsequently shipping it to Kitty Hawk on 14 May 1908, they made the first passenger flight, taking their mechanic Charlie Furnas with them. It was not to end well, and Wilbur crashed the airplane. They had hit on the art of flying by the seat of one’s pants!

Some historians suggest that the brothers used the age-old technique of decision making, the coin toss, to see who would test the Wright Flyer. On the sands of the aptly named Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina, older brother Wilbur won the toss. His first attempt in Wright Flier I on December 14, 1903, was unsuccessful. The brothers subsequently exchanged turns at the controls three more times that day, with each flight covering an increasing distance. On Wilbur’s final flight, lasting nearly a minute, he was able to cover a distance of 852 feet. The Wright Brothers had secured their legacy.

What can we learn from this? One element of resilience is perseverance, the art of keeping going. To some degree, this idea works. When we have a pile of books that we need to mark, we do need to find that extra resolve to get them done. When we have a bad day at work, we need to really look inwards to find the determination to go back in the next day. However, there are also times when perseverance goes too far and we end up exhausting ourselves trying to ‘keep going’, ‘do more’ or to ‘work till late to get it done’. However, what is missing in these situations is a need for ‘rest and recovery’.

I would go further to say that without noticing the signs and signals that your body is giving you to ‘slow down’ then, like the Wright Brothers, you may get a crash landing too. Rather than being the teacher in classroom, you will be teacher with enforced resting and recovery at home!

Orville and Wilbur made iterative tweaks and worked hard to reshape their plane design. You too can do the same with your daily schedule to add in more rest time, to book in time to eat, to share, to be. Rather than feeling guilty about this, do it knowing that without it, you are heading for a crash landing. Rather than feeling guilty about giving yourself time, do it knowing that if you do, you will be a better teacher as a result. A teacher who has the energy to teach, who can be engaging in the classroom and can be happy in this wonderful profession. Look after yourself and enjoy your flight!

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