What You Can Learn from Summer Vacation

This is a revised version of  a post that was originally published on 08/29/11:

As many educators return to the classroom to begin a new school year, I thought I'd share some  reminders and advice that I learned while on summer vacation.

The Background

Life is good.  After spending a wonderful summer in Canada at the cottage, I've now returned to work in Singapore.  While on the long return flight, I reminisced about a great summer and got thinking about what I had learned while on vacation.  There was one thought that stuck out in my mind.  It was an incident in which not only had I learned something, but in which I was also taught a life lesson.  It's a lesson I'd like to share with you as many of us return to the classroom shortly.

The Story

I've been spending my summers on the water since I was a kid.   One of the things I learned was how to sail.  It's something I enjoy doing to this day.  My dad taught me how from the ground up, with lessons on how to rig the boat, important terminology like starboard and port, how to read the wind, etc.

Since the time she was very young, I've shared my love of sailing with my daughter, Haylee, who is now 10 years old.  I haven't really pushed her into it, but she would often accompany me pleasure sailing in a Sunfish or Laser or in races on her grandfather's Mirage 25.  She's always enjoyed the experiences but up to this summer, she has essentially been along for the ride(or so I thought).  That all changed recently.

One afternoon, I had just returned to shore after an hour of windsurfing, when I was greeted by Haylee, who, unbeknown to me, had been keeping a watchful eye on me from shore.  She announced to me that she wanted to windsurf.  Without giving it much thought, I immediately came up with a number of reasons why I felt she wasn't ready, including the fact that she'd never sailed before on her own, couldn't read the wind and wasn't physically strong enough to hold the 4.5m squared sail.

All of my reasoning was based on the incorrect assumption that she would need to learn the same way that I did,  step-by-step, in a systemic order,  from the ground up.  Boy, was I wrong.

Being the persistent little darling that she is, she wasn't going to take no for an answer.  So after providing her with a few elementary techniques, I put her on the water, fully anticipating that she would struggle and that I would be vindicated in yet another example of father knows best. Again, boy was I wrong.

Not five minutes after taking to the water, Haylee had lifted the sail from the water and was sailing!  I couldn't have been prouder of what she accomplished.  At the same time I was disappointed in myself for initially discouraging her.

The Lesson

I had made the incorrect assumption that Haylee was going to need to learn how to walk before she could run.  That she would need to understand the theory before she could apply it.  That she would need to learn the same way that I did.  That she learned the same way that I did.   Boy, was I wrong.

Sometimes we just need to provide the tools and then get out of the way and let self-guided learning take place through curiosity, trial and error.  That's when discoveries are made and the magic happens...

You go, girl!


So, as we begin another school year,  perhaps you can learn from my experience and apply it to how you teach your students.  Please remember :

1.  Students need encouragement
2.  Students all learn differently.
3.  Students have different entry points.
4.  Students have different skill sets that they bring to each learning opportunity.
5.  Students need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do.

Have a great school year and happy sailing!

1 comment:

  1. Scott - that was very touching.
    What a wonderful day that was for all of you. Congratulations, Haylee! Just another wonderul thing that will give her confidence and knowledge of herself that will last a lifetime :-)