“This is far from an ordinary trip,” says Paul Kadri. What started out as a plan to get his dog, a Wheaten Terrier, down to Florida for Christmas with the family has turned into an annual learning opportunity for third graders in his school district. Paul Kadri takes us behind the scenes in what he refers to as his version of “the odd couple.”
Oceans2003: I can’t wait to hear about the trip, but why do you call it your version of “the odd couple”?
Paul Kadri: If you remember the tagline from the TV show The Odd Couple, it was something about whether two eligible bachelors could live together without driving each other nuts. In our case it was, “Can a man and his dog drive for 24 hours without driving each other nuts?”
Oceans2003: Well, how did you do?
Paul Kadri: We drove each other nuts! But we had a lot of fun doing it.
Oceans2003: Describe how it all started?
Paul Kadri: My parents are well into retirement years, and we convinced them to buy a place down in Florida. We mentioned it would be great to get the family together down there during the holidays as opposed to up north, which we experience on a regular basis. Everyone was excited about the idea until we realized that my dog, Bunker, would never survive a flight to Florida. I made a suggestion that we drive to Florida. Let’s just say, that was not a well-received suggestion.
Oceans2003: So was it up to you to make this a reality?
Paul Kadri: I was reminded of the scene in the movies where they ask for volunteers and all but one person steps backward. There was no way I was leaving “my boy” out of the holiday celebrations, so we prepared for our first trip.
Oceans2003: Did you make any special preparations?
Paul Kadri: You can’t imagine the extent of the preparations. We had a van, and I put all the luggage and Christmas gifts around the outside of the back section of the van. This type of van had removable seats. In the middle, I set Bunker up with what could only be described as a “dog bachelor pad.” He had snacks, water, toys and a bed to take a nap. His leash and poop bags were right by the door for easy access. But he never once sat back there! He wanted to ride shotgun, and nothing was going to stop him.
Oceans2003: He was your navigator?
Paul Kadri: Let’s just say he wanted to be in arms reach of unlimited scratches.
Oceans2003: What else did you plan for that first trip?
Paul Kadri: It was around the time when reality shows were becoming big. I got a video camera and decided that we would film our trip to Florida and turn it into a movie.
Oceans2003: You mean it was the first episode of the Paul Kadri and Bunker reality show?
Paul Kadri: The one and only episode. Perhaps I should have mounted the camera on his head, because it was quite difficult filming while driving and scratching.
Oceans2003: But you mentioned that the filming gave you a great idea. Can you elaborate?
Paul Kadri: As an educator, you are always thinking about how to turn an experience into something beneficial for the students. I had the idea that if I could stream a video conference from the trip into a classroom, we could turn our drive into an educational experience. We figured the third grade would be the perfect grade to do this. As we took breaks from driving, Bunker and I asked the class questions about geography, distance and state history. The class would then research the answers to give to us the next time we stopped and video conferenced with their classroom.
Oceans2003: They had video capabilities in their classrooms?
Paul Kadri: Yes, we put interactive whiteboards in all the classrooms that had the ability to access the Internet. We use Skype to do the video conferencing. It was a huge hit, and the teacher loved it. When we returned, Bunker and I visited the classroom and brought the students oranges from Florida.
Oceans2003: They must have felt like they knew a TV star?
Paul Kadri: I think they did, but it was not Paul Kadri the TV star, it was Bunker the TV star. They were hugging and pulling on him more than you can imagine. It was like he was one of the Beatles. He really is a good dog and very patient with kids.
Oceans2003: So in conclusion, tell us how the rest of the trip went?
Paul Kadri: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The first day was not bad, although I got tired at the end. We stayed in a hotel in South Carolina but did not get much sleep because Bunker was not used to people closing their doors all night. The second day was the real challenge. Although it was shorter, Bunker was a little weak from not eating normally and sitting in the same position for 24 hours. I did treat him to a special run on the beaches in Jekyll Island, Ga. He loved running up and biting the foam as the waves came in.
Paul Kadri is a public school administrator known for his creativity and innovation. As a 16-year district administrator, Paul Kadri has a reputation for being extremely child-centered by helping his students gain unique experiences.