Teaching Others

There’s a poster out there, inaccurate but still thoughtful, that says “You retain 10% of what you hear, 20% of what you write….(blah blah) and 90% of what you teach.” Even though the poster isn’t true in terms of its percentages, it still has one profound truth: teaching others helps you understand your subject more. Teaching English has helped me learn the structure and mechanics of the language better, something I actually struggled with in school. I actually can explain a comma splice now without looking it up! If I could arrange my classroom the way I liked, I would group my students up, assign a topic, and have them “master” the topic and then “teach” it to their classmates. There is no better way to assess their understanding of the material than to have them teach it to you.

After this morning’s row was “fogged out,” I waited around to meet up with a friend to take her out for her first row ever. Weeks ago, I promised Suriya after a Mr. Beery’s 5k to take her out in a double after expounding, like I tend to do, on how awesome rowing is and how everyone should try it.

I used the heavyweight Maas 2x, which is a floating antique bathtub. I’m standing pretty at 148, and I doubt she’s heavier than 135, so the boat is too large for us, but it’s steady. Having visited learn-to-row sessions before, I knew the chances of meeting a fish face-to-face was pretty high and grabbed the most stable boat at our disposal.

One of the challenges, I believe, in learning how to row, is the technical jargon. Every profession and activity is littered with their special words. Alan has complained plenty of times about all the edu-speak I use when describing my day. (“What the heck is an IEP? A PGP? What exactly does 504 even mean?”) I warned Suriya ahead of time about the language. I tried to bring it up in increments: “This is starboard, this is port. You’re in the stern and sitting stroke. Behind you is bow and the bow seat.” What else is there to teach? Let’s see…finish, release, square, feather, let it run, weigh enough, body over, swing, catch, hold water, check it down, cox’n, pin, oarlock, sweep, sculling…. At least, that’s what I covered today.

So I plopped her into the boat and steadied the hull. We started with feathered on the water going through the basic motion and hand grips. Next came feathering and squaring, then tap downs, then practicing the basic stroke. After that, I slapped my oars in and pushed us off into the lagoon. Today, once the fog burned off, offered absolutely perfect flat, clear water. She got to play around with the strokes at her own pace and I was able to admire all the fish and sea life swimming around under our boat. Best of all, we didn’t flip!

Teaching Suriya about rowing allowed me to reflect on my sculling technique, especially the hands. I struggle with many aspects of the sculling stroke, one of which is rolling the hands back and forth to square and feather instead of dropping the wrists. Demonstrating the correct technique was an excellent eye-opener for me about how it should look.

As we rowed, I could see her gaining more confidence as she reached out a little further and started using her legs a little more. It’s exciting to think that at 8 a.m. she was nervous and jittery about stepping into the boat, and by 10 a.m. we were rowing together, albeit slowly and easily, back to shore, pretty flat and stable. And she remembered “weigh enough” meant stop!

By no means am I a master rower (other than category!) but I do think I could be a decent learn-to-row, novices, or freshman coach. I loved coaching track, back when I did, and seeing the instant improvement. I’m passionate about rowing, pretty patient for an Irish girl, and I get the basics. I don’t believe I will ever be a Olympics Coach, but I get the basics. I told Alan before, I think I would be happiest working to promote and expand the sport. I believe I can use my words and enthusiasm to nurture the growing interest in rowing, in Sarasota and other areas. Unfortunately, my job hinders my ability to focus more on rowing–although it does pay for it. Believe it or not, if I could, I’d love to take over the learn-to-row program.

I believe everyone, given a chance, should share their passion to others. Suriya looked utterly confused when I tried to demonstrate standing up the rowing stroke motion at Mr. Beery’s on Wednesday. But this morning, as she slowly got it, she commented, “I totally get why you like this! It’s so peaceful,” and, “I have a new appreciation for you and people that do this.”

🙂

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Other rowing updates

  • Last night someone made off with our john boat and the Scullers’ motors. I liked Randy’s theory that someone dragged it down to the water, hooked up one of the motors and threw the other two in the boat. I can just see some drunk moron puttering into the darkness with two motors loaded into their boat. Ha!
  • I ran my best Hump Day 5k to date! 29:28. Smashed my old PB by 2 minutes. The last 2k were both under 6:00. 5:57 and 5:53, respectively.
  • In 2REW, I fell short again, this time in running. Only 1 run, but 3 rows. I have to reassess my schedule to fit in four rows next week. The good news about that is I’ll be working on my sculling. I just don’t know how to fit in working, weightlifting, and running.
  • The club Christmas party was last weekend. Our coach and Sculler’s coach Alex called me over to ask how old I really am. I had them in stitches regaling them about how I still get carded when buying lotto tickets, about how a parent asked me where the track coach was, how they could shove me in their varsity girls boat and no one would be the wiser, and how I’m called Baby face. Today Alex saw me and said, “Hi, Baby face.” Ha ha.
  • Boat captain Karen sent out our erg workouts for this week. They really suck. It’s going to hurt this week.
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About camckenna

I teach; I write; I row.
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