Fishing, the reel deal

Growing up in Yonkers, I would regularly venture down to the Bronx River on my bike with my “boys”. The words “Bronx” and “river” together do not necessarily bring a serene image of Brad Pitt in a River Runs Through It to mind. I am pretty sure rats were more common than fish in the river (Actually, rats from the river invaded our house one summer, but that is a post for another time). We would usually hit the tire swing and then get a slurpy at 7-Eleven and ride our bikes home. I brought my fishing pole one time and thought I would give it a whirl. After about an hour or so of no nibbles I proclaimed that fishing was “stupid”. Patience was not a virtue I had nor wanted to develop at 12. The more active sports suited me then.

Fast forward 25 years.

While I still struggle with patience, I must now apologize to all those anglers out there that I indirectly insulted for the past 25 years. You were right, I was wrong. Fishing is Fun! As the realization came to me at some point in my teens that I wasn’t going to play third base for the Yankees or get picked up to be the quarterback for the Jets (after a big intramural football game- I didn’t even play organized football), I started with the more patient sports, like golf and now fishing. Living on a golf course for my first nine years out of college did not hurt my game at all. But, golf also taught me the importance of controlling one’s emotions and how much strategy and luck come into “play” each and every hole. Life mirrors this for sure.

As for fishing, this is truly patience 2.0 for me and my “mini me’s”. But it is working. I overheard Andrew say to Jack the other day while fishing, “Jack, you have to be patient” ( I wonder who they learned that word from?). “Those who can’t, teach” (it is a bad quote, but it works for me here). That hour I gave it in my childhood did not do fishing any justice. But, as I have gotten older, I truly love the calm and time with the kids just waiting for the nibbles. Most of the time, that patience pays off with a good catch.

My kids and I will grab our polls and head out in a rowboat or on the docks and see what we can get. I have yet to eat a fish we caught (that will come when I learn how to cut and clean then- until then I am a  full catch and release guy). Seeing the excitement in the eyes of my kids when they catch something is priceless. The funny thing is I feel the same joy when I catch something. I guess I am a big kid after all. Not only am I teaching my kids “how to” tie a line, cast a pole, apply bait and hook a fish, I am learning along side them.

Better yet, they are teaching me. I never did like unhooking a fish from the line. I would stand there and look at the fish and try to summon my inner Aquaman and have the fish release itself because I did not want to touch “it”. Well, I guess 5 year old boys, and better yet, my 6 year old daughter, have NO problem grabbing a fish and holding it while it is on the line. So, while fishing off the docks, after having caught a largemouth bass and with the kids holding the fish, I had to dig deep, grab the fish by its bottom lip and take the hook out (just look at all the teeth in that guy). With the kids quizzically watching, I successfully got the the hook out without getting bit by my new friend and sent him on his merry way. It was a good thing I paid attention while watching Bassmasters on ESPN. It is even better that I have some little role models.

So for all you out there who have made fun of fishing, or said something like, “why would anyone sit there all day fishing?”, you “reelly” are short changing the experience. Grab a pole and some worms and head down to a lake or stream. Enjoy the calm and test your patience. And, when there is a bite on your line you will understand why it is so much fun. You may actually learn something about fishing, and yourself. I did.

Why is it that….

we in the field of education tend to focus on the negative, rather than the positive? Simply put, there are many more good things that happen every day than there are bad (especially at my school). Perspective. In the case of my school, a middle school for boys from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the process of “formation”, moving our boys along the growth spectrum emotionally, academically, socially and physically, is just that, A Process. No masterpiece, or even a basic building for that matter, was created instantly. It takes time, patience, planning, perseverance and commitment to make this happen.

I know classrooms are our domains: MY classroom, MY students, MY desks, MY computers, etc and WE want to see instant results. Heck, I am certainly not the most patient person in the world. Hunker down, pack a snack, it’s going to take a while to get middle schoolers on board. Or in the case of JoAnn Rintel Abreu, middle school is an acquired taste. I know what WE do is hard. Why else would people say, “I am sorry” to me when I tell them I work at a middle school. Only a person who has lost their mind would want to go back to this wonderfully awkward time, right? I lost my mind a while ago I guess.

We need to stop and routinely celebrate OUR accomplishments, both as an institution and personally. There is always more work to be done and skills to be honed (in ourselves and our students). Maybe that is why WE never seem to be happy with what is in front of us. Rather, we should open our eyes a bit wider and look deeper. Surely, you will see a classroom, students, teachers, desks, computers and a school that is growing before your eyes.

So, I raise my glass of lemonade this summer to all the middle school teachers out there (I know it is an acquired taste-middle school that is). I salute you and all the POSITIVE work you are doing. Like lemonade, middle school might not taste so good right away, but I promise you, once the tartness washes away it is a pretty good drink. Cheers.