Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moving a gig

I moved a 38' gig across the harbor with a friend today.  Against the wind.  No kids were available from either of our programs and the time was now.  We are both experienced seamen and there was no danger involved, but it was a wild thing to do and surprisingly fun.

We talked about the adventure later over wine.  The subject became deeper as we are both educators as well as seamen.  The craziness of moving that gig without sufficient crew acted more like a stimulant to us than anything had in a while.  There is a drug effect in the body's natural chemistry.  Too often in youth programs we as instructors jump in at the least sign of "danger" to take over for our kids.  We actually do this not to "protect" them so much as to once again experience that life affirming rush of endorphins that led us to working outdoors with youth in the first place.

We did enjoy moving that gig.  It needed to be done, there was nobody else to help, and it always feels good to remind yourself of the fire within.  But we reminded ourselves, and so I write here, that kids need those amazing fleeting opportunities even more than we do.  Sometimes there really is danger from which they must be protected.  Generally, though, ours is not a lifestyle of mortal danger.  Let the kids stretch whenever possible.  They will grow for it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adult Rowing

A lot of the summer is about adults rowing the gig.  They have grown to where they can pretty much handle the program themselves, and I think that's the whole point.  Chances of forming their character with the gig are zero.  Adults know who they are.  Opportunities for friendship, for the joy of getting out on the water, for personal growth, are legion.  Adults should have the chance to try new things and fail and try again.  We should be challenged we should grow through that challenge.  A life that isn't continually evolving sounds really boring from where I'm sitting.  I'm proud of the adults who break out of their comfort zone and row with Station Maine.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


We're all troubled these days about bullying.  Pictures on a school bus only inflame an issue that has always been with us.

I couldn't agree more that children need to be taught not to bully, and taught to stand up for the oppressed.  But I can't help remembering that only the strong can afford to be compassionate.  In their own undeveloped minds these children are fighting for their social standing.  They are fighting to not be the chicken that gets pecked to death in the flock.  They are picking on someone weaker then they are so that they themselves won't be seen as weak.

Along with teaching compassion we need to teach each child as many competencies as possible.  Every child should be able to hold his or her head up and be able to be proud of something they can do.  Every child needs to know that they are so special and strong that they don't need to step on someone else to make themselves taller.

The pecking order will always be with us.  All any of these kids wants is to feel worthy.  Can't we give them the skills that will assure them of that?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Serious about Growing Up

Station Maine isn't the Sea Scouts.  Very few of these kids is planning a career as a seaman.  We aren't equipped to take long passages and we rarely study navigation.  These kids are not serious about the sea.  They are serious about growing up to be the best human beings they can be.  The sea is the medium through which we do it.  The rowing competitions are friendly races, nothing more.  They are a goal towards which we can train, and fun trips to look forward to.  Then, after the racing season, we return to the recurring job of becoming whole human beings.  We bond as a crew because kids need a gang of friends who share their values.  We train for as many skills as we can squeeze in because we become more confident human beings with each new skill.

It is my most sincere hope to send these kids out into the world believing that they have what it takes to succeed in life.  We train and we talk and we dream.  Our bodies harden, our minds become clearer, and we learn to understand that the sky really is the limit of our dreams.

Adult Volunteers

Station Maine is criticized, or maybe it's just me, for not using enough adult volunteers.  For not pressing the parents into service more ardently or reaching out to volunteer organizations in the community.

We do this primarily because the kids do all that sort of work.  That is the program.  Station Maine provides  boating opportunities at no cost to the rower, but that is only a small part of the program.  The kids, as a part of those boating opportunities, maintain the program that provides it.  They sand and paint the gigs.  They put up posters around town.  They recruit among their classmates.  They carry out and display the sales items for the auction or the yard sales.

The kids, unlike most of the adult volunteers, are trained.  They know how to sand with the grain and how to fold sandpaper so that none of the grit is wasted.  They know how to check the fluids in the van before a long trip.  They have the seamanship involved in moving boats to and from the mooring or, as was the case this week, moving auction boats from our facility to the Pearl restaurant.  Some of the work is monotonous, like stamping envelopes for the many mailings.  This is what it takes to run this organization.  Because it is naturally expected of them, they fall easily into the work.

This is the program.  It builds strong kids.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Auction

Station Maine had our auction yesterday.  It was amazing.  Kids started arriving at 8:00 in the morning.  There were no end of chores that needed to be done.  Auction items to carry and arrange.  Silent auction to organize.  The gig needed to be brought to the Public Landing for display.  Guests had to be greeted and signed up as bidders.  The young crew of Station Maine handled all the details.  Willingly.  Cheerfully.

This is their education.  All these kids want, all any kid wants, is to fit in, to take their place in society as a competent, respected individual.  Of every auction I have ever seen for youth groups, Station Maine is the only one who assigns the majority of the responsible work directly to the kids.  This is the program.  And, oh yes, we row too.  Sometimes we race and sometimes we even win.  But the most important part of Station Maine is the education that we provide these kids, off the water as well as on.  They are so rising to the challenge.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Training for Work

I am told that there are those in our government who think it necessary to channel potential blue collar workers into trade schools early in their career.  There is a sense that they will stay there forever as America's working class, bravely assembling automobiles in Detroit or electronics in Massachusetts or even crafting fine boats in Maine, and that will be them, happy in content forever.

Whatever reasons our government has for teaching these skills, this is still America.  Nobody is trapped in their trade for the rest of their life.  Anyone who keeps their mind open will learn more, advance themselves further, and ultimately live a fulfilling life.  I am a musician, a teacher, a sailor, a rigger, a woodworker of sorts, a mechanic at some level.  I have made my living in all these trades.  But ultimately I am a happy and fulfilled person because of these skills.  Ultimately I am who I am because of the choices I've made in my life.  If the schools could teach that, that you are responsible for the choices you make in your life, but adding more skills can only widen your choices, I think we will have come a long way in training our children to take their place in society.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Educating the work force

I was at a conference today where many employers were asking the same question.  Where can we find trained employees?  Many very well paying jobs in Maine do not require a college education.  They require skills in welding, woodworking, systems, and electronics.  These employers can't afford to pay someone for the year or more it might take him or her to learn the trade.  Even in the customer service department, employers shouldn't need to teach their staff how to be polite.  But they do.

The purpose of the schools is to prepare the students to take their place in society.  Can we not admit that not all students are college bound?  I love to read.  Shakespeare is great and I love poetry, but it doesn't put food on the table.  It's time the schools stepped up to the plate and gave their students an education that will prepare them for life in the real world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the log

I saw two young boys today moving a driftwood log that clearly weighed over a hundred pounds.  They had managed to get it from the shore where someone had hauled it out and wheel it on both their scooters towards the end of the dock.  Their intention was clear, to dump it off into the deep water and enjoy the splash.

I stopped them.  Calmly I explained that someone had worked hard to get that log out of the way so nobody's boat would run into it.  They turned their scooters around and took the log back.  A fun bit of play was taken away from them, replaced by perhaps a bit of civic responsibility.

These young boys had never thought about boats running into half submerged logs.  Why would they?  Kids aren't an evil lot.  They just don't know how to behave.  That's our job.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I went sailing with friends today.  Nothing amazing.  Hoist up a sail and move with it.  I can't remember the last time I was so relaxed and so happy.  I thought, as I often do, of my kids.  How much I'd love for each of them to have a hobby that would get them outside in the beautiful Maine summer.  How much I want them to run and swim and row and sail and hike.  To take the time to watch the seals and the sea birds.  To hear the stories of this amazing coast of Maine that is their home.

Programs are a wonderful thing, but ultimately it is the parents and the children who need to decide their summer education.  If kids are not encouraged to get out and find their amusement then the advertisers will certainly find something to sell them.  Facebook.  Computer games.  Television.  I do not damn these things.  I just need our children to live in the physical world.  I need them to learn from their experience.  To feel the wind and taste the wild strawberries.  To smell the sea.  These experiences are their heritage.

Monday, June 11, 2012


People achieve greatness when they have freedom.  Freedom to fail, if necessary, but freedom.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Variety of Skills

Many years ago a shipmate, a rather wealthy individual, told me that his version of job security was knowing how to do a variety of things.  Around that same time another friend, also smart and not making bad money as a computer programmer, lost his job.  He found it difficult to find another job because he was truly one of the country's experts in a certain computer language, but only in that language.

It is very important to teach our children that there are many skills to be learned, and to take joy in those skills.  The world changes in the blink of an eye.  The more solid skills they have in any area the more easily they will learn the skills of the future.  Their future.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I was playing in the yard once as a small child when an ant crawled up my leg.  I watched him for a while, curious.  Then I pinned him down.  I wasn't being cruel.  I was just seeing what he'd do.  Of course, he bit me.  Of course I let him go.  Ant bites aren't awful, and I remember this moment clearly as a learning experience.  Ants are industrious.  They carry bread crumbs to the colony.  They will bite if trapped.

I wonder, with computer games, iPads, iPhones, video games, and just plain old television, how many young children are being deprived of the opportunity to learn with clear understanding, that ants bite.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


As a child I had the privilege of spending my summers on an island in Maine.  I specifically remember how important it was to me to be responsible for my own education.  Really.  I knew even then that the things I observed on the rocks, on the beach, in the tide, were important.  As I look back I realize that the skill of observing was equally important.  I learned this just through having the time to do it.  There was no television on the island.  Just time.

I truly hope that our kids have the time this summer just to be.  I hope there is nothing worthy on television and that they are not so backed up with camps and obligations.  I hope that they have time to just lay on the lawn, walk in the woods, and just observe.  They will learn so much.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Challenge your students.  Give them something hard to do.  We do them great harm by wrapping them in cotton wool.  There is no education like adversity.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vermont Race

Just back from a race in Vermont.  I couldn't have been prouder of not only my kids, but all the kids there.

My two favorite moments were when we were trailing behind and the older crew who crossed the finish line before us turned back to cheer us on.  And when the cox from the winning crew came to congratulate us for racing in First Division.

Winning in this sport really is less important than sportsmanship, cooperation, and having a good time.  I would seriously like to get a few world leaders out there to show them how it's done.  Then I remember that some day these kids will be running the world.  I have no doubt that they will remember what they learned on the water in these races.  I have no doubt that the world will be a better place.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Romney vs teachers

There is no easy solution to reforming our education system, but this article certainly adds fuel to the fire.  Impressive, but I wonder if they are measuring only academics or the whole child.

"The chief educational strategy of top-performing nations such as Finland, Singapore and South Korea is to recruit talent from the top third of the academic cohort into the teaching profession and to train them in selective, prestigious institutions to succeed on the job. In the United States, by contrast, we recruit teachers mostly from the middle and (especially for poor schools) bottom third and train them mostly in open-enrollment institutions that by all accounts do shoddy work."