He Could Fly … And He Did

Well, it is a new year which means “new me.” Well, not really.

Although I do know this year is going to be a better one than last year. Before the new year began, I spent the last couple days of 2020 teaching one final lifeguarding course. There were 10 people in my class, with around 6 people on the waiting list for my class. 7 of the 10 people passed. 2 of the 3 that did not pass ended up passing after a re-test this past weekend.

A lot of teachers and school administrators will claim that “good teaching is good teaching.” I urge people in the education world to stop making teaching an art form. We should just teach the content and give people what they want, rather than always trying to figure out how to do it. There are too many “techniques” and “methods” and not enough DOING.

So, before I conduct the final water tests for students in my class, I always have them sit in a circle, and I give them a “pep talk.” However, the pep talk I give is not a pep talk. It really is more of a “I did what I need to do for you, so now it is time for you to perform.” Sure, it is a three-day class and I usually teach the lifeguarding course in 6-12 weeks. However, my pep talk consists of asking students these questions:

  1. Did I teach you all the water rescues?
  2. Did I teach you how to properly do CPR?
  3. Did I teach you how to properly use an AED?
  4. Did I teach you how to do first aid?
  5. Did I provide multiple opportunities for you to practice skills on land?
  6. Did I provide multiple opportunities for you to practice skills in the water?
  7. Did I actually demonstrate every water skill for you?
  8. Did I actually demonstrate every land skill for you?
  9. Did I give you every opportunity to work in groups for all skills?
  10. Did I allow you as much time as you wanted to practice all the skills?
  11. Did I allow you to ask me any questions you want?
  12. Did I ever refuse to give you time to practice all the skills?
  13. Did I ever tell anyone they are not able to practice any skills?
  14. Did I ever refuse to answer any questions you had?
  15. Have I ever been dishonest with you?

Every time, every class, the answers to all of those questions are “yes.” So, I drive the point forward by explaining to students that yes, I did my job and was thorough with everything. So, there should be no excuse why students can not pass.” And should a student say “no” to any of those questions, I would rectify it immediately because that is what I believe in. I believe in being true to people I educate. Although more than this “pep talk” is a story I shared with this class.

It goes like this …

Once upon a time, there was a boy who could fly. He was interestingly described as having a “cat-like” ability to leap upwards with very little effort. His ability to lift in the air would generate energy within others in a way few have been able to replicate. The boy could fly and his ability was an inspiration to others in ways they would not completely understand for many years. This boy is flying elsewhere now. Rather, he still inspires others to fly and to “fly.”

As the 2020 year came to a close, I can say without a doubt that this year, I really “flew” but this class did as a whole, too. Not just one certain area, not just a few of the students, but the entire compliment. It began three days ago where I learned that I had students who wanted to be competent, but they were too immature enough to show it. So, they approached each task and skill during my course, no matter how small, with a desire to help their peers learn and get better.

The students took to their roles like fish to water as if they had been doing it their entire lives. The freedom this gave the new students was unexpected and also a gift. It allowed them to learn about what they are doing and how it worked, find their voice, and frankly, find their place within the workings of the machine.

The students fell in love with their new “home” by the end of their first evening class. They set the bar high, they came back with a desire to push the envelope, they reached deep and found a new expansive way to embrace each other and teach them the ropes – as if they have been doing it for years.

Every class I have had the privilege to teach with throughout my career thus far holds a special place in my heart. They are a part of me: who I am, who I always was and who I will continue to become. And like any parent (now that I am a parent), I do not like to think that one child is ever better than another. Rather, there are a few that, for reasons I can never quite find the correct words to explain why, stand out just a bit more than others.

This class “flew.”

And I flew, as well this year. I realized that among the bumps along the road that were evident in my life during 2020, my bundle of joy that was born provided that catalyst for the “boy who flew.” He taught so many of us to “fly” and it lives on ways that I am not so sure he ever realized he would. We all “fly” along our own flight path – one that fits our personalities – but also one that is built upon the same philosophical foundation of 100% commitment, doing the uncomfortable thing, and what I constantly tell everyone: “you are going to do it until you do it right.”

Because face it: Practice does not make perfect. This is because you can practice something over and over again and it is wrong. Perfect practice makes perfect.

And I think I did pretty well in giving commitment to everything, doing the uncomfortable things, and doing things until I do it right.

I have realized in my life that sometimes, if you raise your helicopter high enough and survey your world without any preconceived idea or goal, you are “gifted” with the reminder that all things are connected, all people are connected, and you are quite never alone.

And if you are lucky, you get just a little nudge … even if you never met the original boy who could fly.

Best of luck to my last class of 2020! Go out and be water safety advocates!

And cheers to 2021 …

May this year be the year that we are given more opportunities to grow and improve more than we can dream of. May this also be the year that COVID is gone. And more importantly, may this year be the year that we can look back at and think to ourselves: “My gosh, we soared on top of the world.”

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