I am not a surfer. Honestly, I don't know the first thing about surfing. I marvel at the people that can do it and make it look so easy. It must be exhilarating when you "catch the big one" and ride it all the way to shore. My family is fortunate that we get to spend a few weeks down at the Jersey shore each summer. As my son has gotten older (10 years old), he has "dabbled" in surfing. He wants to be a surfer but has a hard time recognizing that it takes a lot of work to be able to stand up and "catch a wave." Two weeks a year does not make one a "surfer." Watching YouTube videos on surfing does not make one a surfer. Unfortunately, for Ryan having a Dad that is not a surfer is not a big help either. The biggest help to Ryan is trying it, failing, and trying it again. However, it takes a certain mindset for that to happen.
Yesterday,Ryan was out in the ocean trying to surf when I saw him slamming his fist in frustration when he couldn't stand up on the board. I kept encouraging him to keep trying but for a 10 year old growing up in today's world, he wants immediate results. With each wave I could see his frustration building and building. He was watching others around him catching waves and it wasn't happening for him. Then, it happened, the chord on his board broke off and there he went, carrying the board out of the water. "I give up. I stink," were the first things he said as he met me on the beach.
Remaining positive, I said, "Let's go get it fixed and get back out there." So we took a ride over to Ocean Hut Surf Shop were we met the owner, Tony. "What's up little man? Looks like you are missing your chord. Let's get it fixed and you can go catch the big one." Tony quickly got to work repairing the board and talked with Ryan the entire time. "I know why this happened," he said. "You are not standing on the board in the proper spot so it was causing pressure on the back of the board which popped the screw loose. Let me guess, you are having trouble standing up so you just jump off."
Ryan was surprised that Tony knew what was happening. As a 10 year old his mind was blown that someone could predict exactly what happened. "Yes," Ryan said. "I really want to stand up but I can't do it."
Tony immediately replied, "Yes you can. Every surfer fails...every day. In fact, if you haven't had this happen to you then you haven't worked hard enough to try to stand up. You have to keep practicing, never give up and realize that there is a wave out there for you. I've been surfing my whole life and I fail every day. It's how I get better." As Tony fixed Ryan's board he gave Ryan advice about surfing and what to do to stand up. He taught him out to ride out to a wave and paddle so you can catch one. After he fixed the surfboard I could see a determination in Ryan's eyes. "Let's go Dad, I want to get back out there," he said as we left the store. We thanked Tony and on his way out he said to Ryan, "Never give up. Surf's up buddy."
On our way back to the beach I reflected on what Tony said. It reminded me of the growth mindset that we must instill in our students that we have in our classes. We must continue to encourage them to never give up, and help them develop an understanding that if you work hard, failure becomes part of the learning process. Students often get caught up in a "fixed mindset" in that they feel like they will never be able to learn it or "it is too hard." As educators we must continue to emphasize the importance of finding their passion, providing feedback on how they could do better, putting supports in place to help them succeed and challenging ourselves to model learning for the students.
Tony didn't have to spend time talking with Ryan. But he was so passionate about surfing that he wanted to share his passion with a young boy who may have given up on the sport that Tony loved so much. As educators, we must do the same. Share our passion for learning with students who feel like they don't know how to learn.......yet. As we start a new school year, the tide is rolling in and there are plenty of waves out there to catch. With each wave that we try to surf to shore, may we be constantly reminded to never give up. Our students are counting on us. Surf's up!
Oh yeah....and after we got back to the beach, this happened....
Richard M. Hayzler
A life long educator and current Principal of Pequannock Township High School in NJ, Rich is excited to share his ideas and thoughts about education and how we can change the world for our students and our staff.