I can’t ski.
There… I’ve bared my soul by exposing a long-held secret.
In 2005 my wife, kids and I packed out bags and headed off to live and work in Canada for six months. It was one of the best personal, professional and family development times I have ever had. We made some awesome friends and experienced more of life than we thought could ever be packed into such a short timeframe.
During this time, just before Christmas, we headed to some ski fields to learn to ski. Now, I say ‘ski fields’ but the reality is less impressive than I’m sure you are imagining. Anyway, there was snow, there were not hoards of people, and we signed up for ski lessons.
None of us had skied before, primarily because the sum total of snow that falls in my state of Australia is measured in nanometres.
My two older kids were 10 and 12. They had one lesson and were off hitting the mildly sloping terrain with abandon. My youngest was in kinder-ski (she was six) and giggled her way through a few hours of hurtling into inflated animals because turning was not in her skill set yet. She was very cute. She became the darling of the (primarily Australian) ski teachers.
My wife and I, along with two other adults (I told you there were few people there) headed off to our lessons. We got the boots and skis on. We looked the part. We imagined ourselves heading for the triple black diamond run. We were pumped!
Then reality set in.
By lunch time, I managed to slide in a straight line without falling down. And I’d managed that… once. (Don’t ask about how incredibly difficult it is to ride those things that dragged you back up the slope or how much they hurt when they smack you in the back of the head when you’ve fallen down!)
I returned for the afternoon lessons hopeful that I’d master The Turn. I didn’t. I did, however, manage to justify in my mind the inherent value of skiing in a straight line (there’s much less wear and tear on one ski over the other).
The following day, because of the small number of skiers and despite my protestations that I just can’t ski, I ended up having an individual lesson.
By lunch time my instructor agreed with me. I can’t ski!
We all have strengths and weaknesses. There are those things that we struggle to achieve in. And our students are just the same, especially during the early adolescent years when the complexities of hormonal changes and peer importance come into play.
Their beliefs about their failures are real (in their mind). Their justification for failure becomes more engrained with every disappointment.
But I never want to be like my ski instructor. I want to persevere and encourage and continue to find new instruction techniques that engage with my students so they can experience success.
I trust I am a better, more understanding, compassionate teacher in the light of my skiing experiences. I certainly understand the frustration of trying and failing.