Fresh Catch – Tuesday 3 September 2013 Opening Day
* Violins and Skateboards by Scott Ruppert
T-zero: All Systems are GO – BLAST OFF
Enjoy the ride!
Violins and Skateboards by Scott Ruppert – One might think skateboards and violins don’t have a lot in common. Frankly, as objects they don’t; but those that learn to use them – do.
On a recent business trip I walked past a dried up concrete drainage canal where teenagers were learning to do tricks on their skateboards. I stopped to watch the activity from the overpass. They appeared to be the type of kids that old folks would stereotype as ‘at risk’ youths. You know the type; scraggly hair hanging below a baseball cap worn backwards, pants sagging way too low, sufficient evidence of questionable hygiene and sporting a ‘whatever’ attitude.
But there was nothing ‘whatever’ about the way they went about their business. Watching them more closely, I began to see them in a different light. There was zeal and determination in spite of their persistent failure; it shouted “I won’t quit until I master this trick.” There was no one there to nag, coach or coddle them into the repetition that they required of themselves. In this unique classroom they were respectful and helpful to each other; ceding time and space for their comrades to take their turn. When someone succeeded, it became cause for boisterous celebration, high fives, and knuckles.
All of them were in pain; banged up knees and shins, bloody palms and elbows. Interestingly enough, there didn’t seem to be any bruised egos as they endured failure after failure in their attempts to succeed. They inspired me.
I began to think ….. They aren’t the only ones in this “determined youth” category. How about the young violinists? They don’t just pick up a bow and become Itzhak Perlman. They’re terrible when they start! The sounds that come out of that delicate instrument can be painful. But they don’t wilt at the sounds of failure, they persevere.
Consider the teenage snowboarder or the young ballerina learning a skill for the first time that arrives home from practice with bloody toes and sprained shoulders but can’t wait to return to the slopes or the studio. Subconsciously, this type of learning becomes important to them. Picture the first day Seth Wescott strapped on a board or Julie Kent laced up Pointe shoes.
What is it that motivates those that in other areas of life may be utterly … un-motivatable? Maybe it’s that learning their individual discipline is cool and that it provides them with an identity other than their name. Or perhaps it’s simply the challenge that compels them to continue and the adrenaline rush they get when they finally succeed and someone notices.
I have no idea how these kids performed in a traditional classroom, but they showed me they had the desire and capacity to learn and fully understood the relationship between practice and proficiency.
Maybe instead of trying to make stuff easier for our kids, we encourage them to not live so comfortably, to take on new challenges. Maybe the operative phrase here is for us (the adults in the room) to constantly encourage, especially in those times when they will inevitably fail.
Eventually, and with sufficient encouragement the skateboarder will likely learn the trick, the ballerina can become an object of beautiful movement, the violinist will prompt her instrument to make wonderful music, and the snowboarder might even make the US Olympic team.
Watching from that overpass I was reminded that learning comes in many forms. Success often becomes its own reward, especially if failure has been an integral part of past.
Friday Fresh Catch blogger is John D’Anieri