Friday, November 21, 2008

2 years ago

2 years ago this week was the beginning of the relationship that would form the triathlon team.

A student, we'll call him Dustin, was in my geometry class my first year teaching. I made acomment that if 'they' didn't understand slope, they should have failed Algebra I. He came up to me (big, 6 foot plus football player) afterwards and admitted that he didn't know anything and had somehow slipped by.

So he came in for about six weeks every day at 7:30am and we went back to the basics. And the focus of the conversation was the occasional 'how's it going' etc.? But after a while, we started talking a bit more. I challenged him to do winter water polo, and he accepted (mostly because his girlfriend played water polo at that high school so he'd get to see her for 10 minutes before practice started.).

The week before Thanksgiving break, we decided to do some running to stay in shape between water polo/football ending and winter water polo. We decided to run the five miles between Fresno State and McLane. But he asked a few questions about life as we started, and we pretty much jogged/talked the entire way there and back. I was a new teacher, and he was thirsting for an adult to talk to. He's lived with his grandparents most of his life and because of the teacher-student relationship we had due to the math tutoring, the seed was planted. At the end of the run, he informed me we'd be doing it again the next day. And we did - more running, but still tons of talking before and after the run. I hardly said a word; just listened. I remember going up to my parents that first thanksgiving break being very excited about this new opportunity in teaching - already I could tell I was actually forming a helpful relationship with a real student. For sure the first teacher-student relationship of any substance.

The first day at water polopractice, even though he had a swimming background, he just about drowned, but started to get better. After six weeks he was a proficient water polo player. At one point I knew he was comfortable with me when he noted as we were running during Christmas break, "what kind of deodorant is that?"... could have been awkward but I thought it was quite disarming and showed the level of comfort he had with me and the other kids that were now running with us.

So we were sitting as a class before Christmas break in 2006 watching a movie, and he asked me the question as a teacher you want to always hear:

"So Mr. Dorman, what can you do to challenge me next?"

Prompted by my inability to compete with a friend in mountain biking a couple of months before, I suggested we try triathlons. We did an internet search and found the Ice Breaker Triathlon in April 2007. We learned that not all triathlons were ironman distance... but that there were sprint, olympic and half ironman distance ones too (news to us.). So without bikes, running shoes, or any idea of what was going to happen next, we set a practice schedule for Christmas break and shook hands.

And the Triathlon team was born.


Rainmaker said...

Very cool story, especially to know where it is now.

mathnerd said...

I am always here to vent to. I know the feeling. I had a kid last year who always knew how to push my buttons. Hope you feel better!