…a lifetime of sailing.


If you wanted a kid to be a sailor, what would be the first thing you would try to give them?
If the kid was in school, the school would try to give her a boat.  Actually they would have given her a boat up until about 10 years ago.  Now schools would have the student make the boat…well actually now schools would have the student make the boat and do a report on famous seafaring nations, do three graphs showing how much water will be displaced, and create recipes based on Viking fare.  The kid would have to then present the boat to the class in a livestreamed event that would have a live blog for the audience to engage with the speaker and the class who are back channeling on Twitter, Plurk, and a social media network so new it does not have a name.  They would then have to create a brochure that outlines possible business opportunities with their boat and create a webpage for it along with a fake Facebook page for the captain along with pictures of other current boats that influenced the design of their boat.  Of course, the teacher would be documenting all of this on his blog with photos, behind the scenes videos, highlights from the skype conversations with a first mate from a Japanese whaling ship and the Captain of a Green peace vessel stalking the Japanese whaling vessel. This post would get re-tweeted hundreds of times and even become popular in a place called google +. The unit was designed using a UDL, PBL…no IBL, managed with PBIS, and had modifications for the kids with ADHD who are ESL and in the FFA, and had STEM teachers collaborating with their PLN. No one could question whether it met kids’ IEPs, even the PTA agreed it would help raise SAT scores and complied with IDEA.  The administration knew this was the exactly kind of assignment that connected to the CCSS and would raise NAEP scores and help secure RttT funds.  Throughout the unit the kids were given formative and a summative assessment.  The summative assessment had to be given on a date determined by the district a year earlier by people who were not sailors, and some had never seen open waters, so one of the classes had to rush to a finish because they lost class time due to yearbook pictures, high school visits, guidance lessons, and lock-down drills.  The teachers examined the data in their Student Growth Sessions and find that none of the students want to become sailors at the end of the unit. They decided to convene a meeting with the school psychologist, speech pathologist, STEP teacher, special education teacher, two paraprofessionals, the guidance counselors, instructional strategists, administration, the social worker, and three members from the district’s Instructional Advisory Group to see if they could figure out the problem.  As they look out at the boats sitting out on the grassy field they realize that if they could just get the kids to focus more on the information that they could make the kids love sailing.  Each staff member was assigned one student with the lowest grades and had to phone their parents, email them weekly updates, and meet with the kid to discuss the impact the low grades will have on their future. They also agreed that they will have 75.2% of all students say they want to become a sailor at the end the following year and also agree that building the boat took too much time, was too messy, and was hard to grade with a standardized rubric because not everyone made the same boat so they would eliminate it from the unit and replace it with a video from Con Academy in which they watch a person draw a boat on a whiteboard.  At first some teachers balked at the idea of the video, some even suggested that they might learn how to sail over the summer instead, but they quickly agreed on the video after seeing that it is a really good drawing of a boat especially for someone who only read about boats online.  The NBCT math teacher, who was also a TFA graduate and ISTE attendee, decided to complain about the kids lack of interest, perseverance, and inability to stay focused at a family get-together.  ”Today’s kids aren’t the same as the used to be–they just don’t care about anything anymore.”  Most of the people at the table agreed…except for one old women who simply said, “If you want someone to become a sailor, don’t make them build a boat, but instead show them the beauty of the sea.”  Of course, no one paid any heed to the old women, for her wisdom was not based on SBRs, it was only based on a lifetime sailing.  

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

6 thoughts on “…a lifetime of sailing.

  1. You nailed it, if we are lucky we don’t pound all the creativity and interest out of our kids. Ironically, I teach woodworking among other things. I took over the class from a terrible shop teacher before me. They got rid of him by changing the class to a wooden boatbuilding class, something he admitted he would not be able to do. So I was recruited to teach this “new” class because before becoming a teacher I had a background in boatbuilding. So we started the class and we had the kids build boats. I love boats and thought that all the kids would too. (We live very near wonderful cruising grounds) TO my surprise a lot of the kids had no interest in building boats but for several years I persevered, in the end almost flogging some of the kids to build and fiinish their boats. Finally, as it became harder and harder to recruit kids for the class I switched tactics and in that class they can build anything they are interested in. It is much more relaxed, I have more kids, kids still learn useful skills and we are all having more fun. Great post. Todd
    Here is a recent blog I wrote about my woodworking class, I think you might find it interesting. http://quilbilly.blogspot.com/2012/12/perfectly-circular-holes-differentials.html#links

  2. Loved this post! Huge challenge for us teachers: to stop complaining about students’ apathy and actually DO sthg about it.
    Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>