Challenging lessons in life from the annals of Gav’s winter slope solstice…
Last fall I fell into The Reason I Jump on Audible.com because I teach skiing and boarding here in Ontario. Have done for years.
This year I’m at Dagmar Resort teaching at a new venue and trying real hard to remember why I teach. This is nothing new for me. I have been teaching more or less full time for the past 15 years or so.
I switched to Dagmar this year because I needed a change. And I have relocated to a new town. Mostly I needed a change. We also have a dynamite ski school director in Meredith Youmans, who like my nemesis Harald Harb, skis like a ghost. Which is to say… very well indeed. I have aspirations to attain a Level III instructors cert and I am guessing that skiing with ghosts? Is the best way to get there.
But I’m also there because I love teaching. There are different types of lessons on a ski hill. I take pride in my ability to impart knowledge on a pretty broad level.
But I also teach challenged people. I teach one legged skiers, I teach kids with Down Syndrome and I also teach kids with various forms of autism.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of skiing with two dynamite kids who are autistic and the reason I read young 13-year-old Naoki Higashida’s book? Is because I’m a smart enough to know that I do not know it all.
It was recommended by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Jon’s mother is a teacher, and Jon has children of his own. When he recommended that book? He said it with a passion so sincere? That I downloaded the audio book the very same night.
I urge you all to read it. Even if you never think you will ever use the very cogent lessons contained therein. Because Naoki approaches us with the questions that he has amassed over his short life. Because he knows the questions that frustrate his parents and his teachers and his caregivers. Naoki just goes through them like a bucket list.
What evolves is a very simple and concise look into the mind of an autistic kid. And it tells us that those kids? Are just as frustrated with their inability to solve the riddle of their physical tics and actions because they want us to know that those things have nothing to do with their ability to love. And accept life on its terms.
They know… they really know when those physical traits are on display. But like Naoki says… he is powerless to just stop.
It is he says just a quirk of his mind… which will not allow him to stop the behavior which he himself finds very frustrating indeed. And yes he wishes he could explain just what’s happening. But that’s nigh on impossible when he is involved in that moment.
He wrote the book. But he does not write per se. He dictates his thought one letter at a time. There are other ways to do it. More technology. But he says that the slow process of that one letter, one word, one sentence grind? Is what allows him to transport his real thoughts to the reader. And he is right.
I had two wonderful lessons at Dagmar this past weekend. With two kids that absolutely loved that ecstatic feeling of letting gravity take hold of them as they slide to the bottom of the hill.
I have an extra tool now in my big bad toolkit of instructor’s gadgets. I have Naoki whispering in my ear as I help them master that feeling of letting go.
I’ve been enrolled in an academy for a long time now. It’s a school for dummies that relies upon their own set of mantras. They like this one: Let Go… Let God. I’m a wee bit dyslexic so I have always read it as Let go… Let Dog. Which explains why my dog Billie Jean takes me for a walk.
My mantra on the hill?
Let Go… Let gravity…
Oh and quit thinking and clear your mind.
When I teach these kids? I enjoy it and every little victory.
And I nod a wee prayer of thanks to Naoki for writing that book.
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