What I did on My Summer Vacation
Avalon, NJ. August 2014
My son signed up for a surf lesson and I’m standing on the beach watching him practice hopping on the board which is still lying in the sand. I begin to eye up the surf, it is really rough today. 5-7 foot waves churning and crashing endlessly from the beach to a distant point on the horizon, I can’t really make out how far away it calms – or if it calms at all. I start to get a little nervous as I watch him pick up the board and follow the teenage surfer dude into the churning cyclone of death.
Earlier that day, when he was asking for the surf lesson, I didn’t really feel like taking him. Surfing is really hard (I tried it once when I was 12) and the lessons are expensive. I also heard about a shark sighting off the coast of Massachusetts. And isn’t this hurricane season? Neither one of my kids had done anything academic over the summer, at all. The teacher in me wanted them to enjoy reading and doing fun math problems in the house, or maybe on the front porch where they can enjoy the salty sea air. So I began to explain all of these reasons to him and he just looked mystified.
Discouraging my children from learning experiences is not really who I am, but I really didn’t want him to go. So I sunk really low and told him, it was so hard that I didn’t think he could do it. Instead of being disappointed he saw that as a challenge. And because I felt so guilty about what I had said, we were off to take surf lessons.
Just as a final comment the teenaged surfer dude tells his students, “Hey it’s pretty rough out there, you’ll probably get tossed around a bit.” He smiles and heads towards the hurricane churning unforgiving ocean full of sharks. That’s it? I wonder. You’ll probably get tossed around??? I look around and notice that none of the students care about getting tossed around – one of those students was a grown man for goodness sakes!
I’m helpless on the beach watching the students try to get up on these boards only to come crashing down on them every single time. The boards smash theirs heads, they get yanked by the tethers and clobbered by the waves, I’m sure the sharks are lurking. I’m not sure how much more I can take.
Almost 45 minutes later, one of the younger kids surfs in perfectly. All of the teenage surfer-dude instructors in the water begin jumping for joy and hooting, hollering, high-fiving each other – pure joy. Next to come surfing in was my son, and the crowd offered the same reaction! Even the other parents and friends on the beach were cheering for him. I found myself jumping up & down and cheering for the older man who came flying in on his own. They all looked hooked on the adrenaline rush, as tired and beaten as they were, they could not wait to get back out there.
There was such excitement and enthusiasm in the water – all of these certified surf instructors wanted nothing more but for the kids to fall in love with their first love surfing. Each one of their students did get up on the board but none of them did it exactly the same way or at exactly the same time. Even after they got up once, some never got up again but it did not matter, they were trying, having fun and loving the sport.
I have no idea how each teacher will plan out this coming year, but I know they will all face challenges. Oversized classrooms, little support and the endless testing that legally needs to be administered are just a few of the challenges that many of our teachers face in this changing educational landscape. However, no matter how beat up our students get in the process or how ugly and different their victories might seem, our teachers are lucky enough to be there when their students experience success for the first time, hooting and hollering and jumping for joy.
We at The Teacher’s Academy are sending lots of well-wishes for a great new year and a big shout out to all of the amazing teachers who find joy in celebrating the success of their students!!! Have a great year!
Oh, and by the way, we had a few more days of summer so I asked about another lesson for my son before we had to trade summer vacation for reality:
“Friday is good,” he said with a smile. “A hurricane will be off shore, we will be expecting 9 foot waves.”
“Ok, sign him up.”