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Worldwide Ace » Losing It.

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Losing It.

30 January, 2011 (07:10) | Work

I seethe.

Rage, anger, hatred, disappointment flow through me as if I were a conduit. My body shakes, my eyes smoldering orbs glaring at the convocation of innocents before me, my knuckles blanched whiter than the snow.

In the recesses of my mind, one thing and one thing alone cuts logically through the tempest of emotion: fear.

How could all this, every ounce of venomous bile frothing beneath the surface, appear in response to a five year-old?

I never lose my cool. Not like that. Not in anger. I find ways to redirect it, ignore it, use it to my advantage, but it never appears like a waving banner announcing its presence as it spits and ripples in the wind.

Yet here I am, livid, quivering, completely unable to sustain my even-keeled demeanor.

“That’s it! We’re done.”

I don’t listen to their pleas, their questions. My words are curt, direct, and firm.

“Come.”

“This way.”

“Stop.”

“Skis off.”

They follow. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m simply leading, because they’re afraid, or because they know something is wrong and they’re in trouble.

At our flag, our designated meeting spot, I finally break my focus.

“If you cannot listen and follow one simple direction, you cannot ski with me.” They flounder about in the snow, as I collect the skis of those I’ll leave behind, banished for the day, perhaps for longer, from my class.

“Inside,” I order. “Upstairs.” They march, their laden feet pounding a dirge up the stairwell.

As we round the corner of the landing, I spot my supervisor at the top. I lose it, the firmness disappearing into a bubbling torrent of bitter words.

“Jesse!” I yell, the volume of my voice startling me along with the rest of the patrons in the stairwell. “He,” I call, my finger trembling outstretched as I point at my most troublesome student, the catalyst of it all, “is NOT coming back to my class. Ever. We’re done.”

They wrangle me, verbally, offering calming words and leading me into a more private area. Snippets of what they’re saying slip through the cracks, but whole sentences are enveloped by my rage. I catch “not in front of the parents” as I’m ushered into an empty children’s center.

My students begin to dismantle their helmets and gloves, settling down at the table. A junior instructor gets them hot chocolate while I step aside with Jesse and Tzvi, the supervisors.

“What happened?” they ask.

With a deep breath, I launch into the details.

Saturday is the bane of my existence right now. When I was assigned 4-6 Greens for Trek, I had images of six weeks of awesome skiing with little kids. Instead, as a matter of necessity, I ended up with one of the worst combination of problem children I’ve ever had in a class.

There are nine Green classes in the 4-6 age range. As flag captain, it was my job to make sure that everything went smoothly for all nine, skill levels and friendships maintained, and classes clearing out and collecting at our designated split spot, where abilities could be tested, arranged, and solidified. Each instructor took a number of students over, six at a time, and proceeded to do laps and begin their classes. I remained at the flag, collecting the stragglers and answering questions until the last moment.

With four kids in tow, we finally headed over to the split spot. On our first loop, it was instantly clear that I had a decision to make: two of my four were ripping it up, skiing wonderfully and clearly good to go; two of my four were struggling with turns, and, had the Trek program not already been overbooked and understaffed that day, likely would’ve been dropped to yellow.

“If you need to create a low Green group, do so. Try not to drop anyone to Yellow if possible,” I had been instructed.

My choice was simple: keep the fast kids, pick up a few more, and have an easy session or keep the slower kids, pick up a few more, and have a challenging session.

As we looped, I glanced at the other classes. Each one seemed mostly balanced toward moving, with one child, if any, struggling. To choose the fast class would mean ripping five students from an instructor and telling them to take the slower class. That is not a decision I could make in good conscience.

It didn’t take long for word to spread among the other groups. With a child from this group and a child from that, I soon found myself burdened with a motley collection of Too-Small, a pair of Not-Turning-Well’s, Me-First, Not-Listening, I-Want-My-Mommy and Not-Playing-Well-With-Others. I can work with this, I thought.

For the first three weeks of the program, I didn’t teach skiing. I tried, but my time was spent teaching class management, teaching listening, teaching fair play and equality. This was ski school, but it was a constant lesson in discipline. For me, it was painful, trying, and, worst of all, discouraging.

Finally, I think as we crest the top of the chairlift, an hour into the fourth week of Trek.

For two runs, they had listened well enough. They had followed reasonably. They had stayed together. And, most of all, they had skied well.

Despite my troubles with class management, I had gotten my Not-Turning-Well turning well, and a talk with dad about Not-Playing-Well-With-Others seemed to have him behaving. It was, in my mind, time to start pushing their boundaries.

At the top of EZ chair is a catwalk. The catwalk has a small chute, maybe 10 feet, that drops skiers down a steep, over a small rise, and back onto the top of Bunnyfair, our easiest way down. Students, when facing the sudden change in pitch, must stay forward and bend their knees in order to ride the small chute out.

Typically, every student falls their first try, and most fall their second, but the important thing is that they try and learn from it and improve. If a student falls, part of my job is getting them up, encouraging them, and getting them out of the way so the next person can go.

“Ok,” I tell them, launching into the explanation, “When we go down here, you need to lean forward and bend your knees. Be a spring.

“There’s only one rule. Do not go until I tell you to. Ok?”

“Ok,” they chorus.

“What’s the rule?”

“Don’t go until you say,” they tell me. Not-Listening doesn’t answer.

“What’s the rule?” I ask, looking him in the eye.

“Don’t go until you say,” he says.

“Good. Ok. Watch me.” I tip my skis over the side and shoot down and out. I march a few steps up the hill so I’m back in view and call up to them. “Did everyone see that?”

“Uh huh,” they chorus.

“Ok, now one at a time. Remember, don’t go until I say so. Go ahead,” I instruct Not-Playing-Well-With-Others. As expected, he leans back on the steep and slides onto his butt. I move to help him up. “What did he do wrong?” I call up as I heft him from the snow.

“He leaned back,” I hear in response.

“He leaned back! Good! Remember, you have to lean forward.” I send him safely out of the way. “Good job. Go wait by that post.” I glance up and see another of my students perched at the lip. “Ok, go ahead,” I instruct, sliding back out of the way.

One of the Now-Turning-Well’s tips over the side and skis the steep beautifully. As she flattens out, she leans to the side and loses her balance, crashing down, a ski lost in the process. “What did she do wrong?” I call up as I move to help her get up.

I reach down and grab her hand, and as I help her stand, I glance up at the others. Barreling towards us is Not-Listening. I yank Now-Turning-Well out of the way and dive aside as he collapses backwards and slams into her ski, skidding to a stop with painful grimace. Had I not moved, he would’ve run right into us, and could’ve hurt all three of us.

“Stop!” I yell as I notice Me-First sidling to the edge. But it’s too late. I dart across the path toward Not-Listening, but it’s an unnecessary measure. Me-First takes a bad line and hits a tree with her ski. She careens into the snow, the tree yanking her ski from her boot.

In less than a minute, three of my students’ safety, not to mention my own, was put at risk because of one student and his inability to follow a single, very clear direction. There is no excuse for it.

“That’s it! We’re done,” I yell.

Not-Listening is seriously ADHD.

In week one, I twice had to physically pull him off the magic carpet because he got back on without the class. “That’s just Not-Listening,” his dad said when I informed him at the end of the lesson.

I don’t mind having students that have difficulty paying attention or that tend to wander off. I’m good about keeping them having fun and staying with the group. If we’re doing loops on either magic carpet and they’re a safe skier, there’s not much trouble they can get into.

At the Green level, however, we skier more dangerous terrain, going through trees, down steeps, and using long trails which I can’t see down from start to finish. If safety is an issue, I can’t in good conscience allow a kid like that on the mountain without individual attention, and in a group lesson that’s not something I can offer.

I’m not sure what the solution is for Not-Listening and his family. By the end of the day, I had calmed down a fair amount and very civilly informed his father of the events of the morning. His response wasn’t one of ire, just resigned disappointment and worry.

“He’s going on M-E-D-I-C-A-T-I-O-N tomorrow. I’m hoping that we see a breakthrough.”

“I hope so too,” I tell him.

I know it’s not the boy’s fault. He has his problems and that has to be difficult for both him and, more so, for his parents. Even if he’s trying, it’s simply not enough.

“How was your day?” another instructor asks me, grinning his usual jovial grin.

“Awful,” I reply. “I kicked a kid out of my class.”

“Seriously?” His eyes widen, but the grin stays. “That’s awesome, bro!”

“No. I kicked a kid out of my class,” I say again, glaring at him, “and I feel awful about it.”

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