Man, it seems like just last month I was putting bikes away for the last class of 2008. That's because it was, actually. The last class was during the first weekend of December. A mere seven weeks later I've just put my first class of 2009 on the calendar.
What ever happened to the Winter break? I won't get any sympathy from anyone who knows me around here, though. They'll remind me that signing up for classes is a voluntary thing. They'll tell me that I didn't HAVE to sign up so early. Good or bad, I've set a pattern of trying to teach both the first and last classes each year. Due to an increasing demand by students, that first class seems to come earlier each year. Which is how I found myself stomping around a parking lot in January with the temperature not far above freezing. To top if off, there was a threat of snow on Sunday. Sort of like last year all over again. My first class last year was disrupted by 9 inches of snow on Sunday. On top of that, I had to make a round trip of 94 miles to the range in the aforementioned snow. This time it wouldn't prove to be quite so tough. At least not where I was.
For once I managed to get a kind of cool picture. It looks pretty neat if you make it bigger. Sophie is on the left and you can just see Al's KLR to the right. Training bikes are warming up in the moments just before dawn.
What was most astounding is that we had a full class of 12 students. I know most of us instructors are crazy. But the students? Crazy or not, here they were. Nine guys and three gals. Two of the gals were a mother / daughter pair. Most of the guys were young, as in under 30. As a sort of sad side note, I was older than any of my students. Admittedly, it was by a mere few months in one case. My spirit's still young and strong, though!
Everyone in a class has their own story. An effective instructor tunes into his students as much as possible. There's a constant evaluation process going on. We need to know where they are at any point in time. I really care about these folks while they're in my charge. Each individual needs a somewhat modified communication style. Some need extra encouragement. Some need cajoled. Some even need to be treated more firmly. The method can vary with each student over the course of the class. My goal is to give each student what he or she needs to facilitate their success. If a student's not successful, I don't want it to be because I failed to do something.
That tuning process tends to build a bond between teacher and student. I need that bond because I need the students to trust me. After all, I'm asking most of them to do something that's beyond their comfort level. They have to trust that following my coaching will turn out well. This bond, in turn, causes the students to share more of themselves with me. Not all of them, of course. But a lot do. I find this sharing to be fascinating. I have a great appreciation for the diversity of humanity.
There's no space to share everyone's story here. I do, however, want to briefly share a funny highlight from the weekend.
First, just a short background.
We try to keep duct tape in the bike storage sheds. Students are required to have over the ankle footwear in order to ride. Makes sense. The ankle needs to be covered and supported. I used to tell students that, if they didn't have appropriate footwear, that we had "boot on a roll". They'd look dorky but they could ride. A few years ago I had a couple of young men show up and want to be taped. They thought it would be cool. So I quit offering that escape route up front. I figured it was the students' responsibility to have the right boots or shoes. Rather than send somebody home, though, we can tape their pant legs to their shoes to help protect their ankles. We just don't tell them it's available ahead of time.
Thursday night, though, I sort of slipped up. I wasn't quite back in tune, so to speak. I told the story of how a young man showed up with tennis shoes that didn't cover his ankle. I mentioned that I just happened to have part of a roll of duct tape in the bike. So I told a newer instructor who was working with me to tape the guy up. I gave him instructions. Put a strip of tape under the shoe and bring it up each side of the leg. Then wrap tape around the original strap to tie everything together and hold the pant leg in place. So far so good.
The new instructor, however, didn't quite get the whole picture. I noticed later that the student's ankle was, indeed, securely wrapped. The catch was that the tape was under the pant leg, not on the outside. The wrapping job was secure so the intent to protect the ankle was met.
Did I mention that the young man also failed to don socks? All the ankle wrapping was accomplished over his bare lower leg. I never did hear how the unwrapping went. I can certainly imagine! Do you pull slowly, or do it quickly and get it over with? Either way, OUCH! I will tell you, though, that the guy had the proper footwear the next day!
So the moral of the story was that, if they didn't want to take a chance of this happening to them, the students had better bring the right boots!
Back to Saturday morning.
I'm checking footwear. I come to Matt. He pulls up his pant leg. Short shoes and a bare ankle. I start to admonish him. Grinning, Matt pulls out a roll of duct tape. He'd brought his own tape! That's a first for me. I showed him how to tape himself and he went to it. Did a nice job, too. On Sunday he came pre-taped. I found it pretty humorous, all in all!
This post is getting pretty long so I'll save another story for a later time. We all triumphed over the cold and got the class in. Sunday brought a couple of hours of drizzle but no snow. The mercury may have hit 40 degrees, but just barely.
Portland, however, wasn't quite so lucky.
One of our ranges is at Portland Community College's Sylvania campus. I think the elevation is somewhere around 700 feet above sea level. Sunday brought snow. These are a couple of photos taken by Jeff Magar, an instructor in the Portland area. Jeff was kind enough to give me permission to use the photos here.
I'll think of this snowy range the next time I'm teaching in hundred degree heat. This weekend's cold would be pretty welcome about then. Earlier this month I was riding in very frigid conditions thinking about a hundred degree class last Summer. We're never happy, are we?
Our training year is officially underway. I'm sure there's many adventures to come!
Miles and smiles,