Sunday, October 29, 2006

Catch and Release

At my waterside school the learning environment extends out to the end of our dock (and sometimes beyond). I'm just getting to know these students and watched as something almost magical happened on "dock day."There are behavior problems in every classroom, some have more than others. There are students who struggle and seem to wrestle with the textbook. There are those who just can't seem to keep still and wander around the room like a lost puppy. These students, on dock day, were engaged, competent, focused, and literally joyous!

Maybe it was the fresh sea air; maybe it was getting out from behind those desks in the classroom. Whatever it was, it gave me a glimpse into the hearts of these budding teenagers who showed me a side of themselves most teachers never see - that of confident and expert learners.

I marveled at the pixie who, with her black nail polish, nose ring, and chains dangling from her hips, gathered a cast net back together, held one end in her teeth before throwing over the edge of the dock into a perfect wide circle into the waiting water. Moments later she pulled the net up and counted her catch - about 10 pinfish and one small blowfish! Just as expertly she picked up each one and threw it back into the water. She knew from experience which were worth keeping and which weren't. Catch and release - that's how we do things on dock day.

We spend so much time trying to keep kids in a box of our making. Although the parameters are usually for their safety, I wonder how many of us say "No" more often than we say "Yes." Those things we say "No" to aren't always to keep our kids safe. They are for our convenience as parents and teachers. It seems easier to say "No."

The problem is that the more we say "No" the less opportunities our children will have to experience the world around them. Their strengths, their talents, their gifts may not show up until we say "Yes." We can let them experience the world and cast a wide net of experience. We don't have to accept everything they catch though. We can teach them how to identify what they catch in their nets as worth keeping or not. Help them learn how to catch and release.

Maybe then we will learn how to catch and release as well.