The holidays were rough this year, and even on the bus to the Winter4Kids campus, I was feeling somewhat somber, but after spending a day coaching my students on how to ski, I am overwhelmed with compersion.
This is the second year of the program at my school. When we arrived, some of the returning students embraced each other in a group hug and started jumping up and down in joyful anticipation. Unfortunately, the returning students really wanted to snowboard. (The boots are always what turn people off to skiing.)
However, I did get to teach a group of first timers. I was shocked at how quickly some of the members of my group were progressing. We took the lift within an hour or so of stepping foot on snow and practiced on the trail. One of my current students, Janetza, was learning especially fast. I asked if her boots were bothering her, and she said she doesn’t mind them at all. I am holding out hope that next year I’ll have at least one returning alpine skier.
Most of the students that come on the trip are upperclassmen, so they’re either current students or former ones. The benefit of this is that it really helps me build a relationship of mutual respect with my students and that translates to better classroom culture. In fact, if I’m struggling to build a relationship with a student, I will go out of my way to persuade them to join the club.
It can be difficult to motivate myself to invite someone that seems hellbent on being disrespectful, but in teaching you really have to put your ego aside. I invited one student I had a negative interaction with earlier in the year and today he said that he had “the best time ever.” Those are the moments you live for as a teacher and that’s why the Winter4kids program is so meaningful to me.
-- Julie "Queen of the Catskills" McGuire
Julie McGuire is a high school English teacher and backcountry skier who splits her time between NYC and the Catskill mountains. She has done backcountry tours on four continents including the Haute Route Alps. Julie is almost done with a project to become the first woman to ski the Catskills high peaks. Her greatest joy is spreading her love of skiing, especially to her students.
You can follow Julie on Instagram @queenofthecatskills.