Archive for October 11, 2008

Philosophizing about Mini-Dramas and Breakthroughs at Ramstor’s Skating Rink

Last night after a long, hard week of teaching, my husband and I decided to meet up at Ramstor. While waiting for his arrival, I had a chance to observe dramas in the making between parents and skaters or later with trainers and their little ducklings to be eventually transformed into graceful swans.  Combinations of novice skaters and experienced skaters of all ages abounded on the ice, each with their own dramatic story of  breakthroughs. (read to end to find out my philosophy on skating and writing)


First, the two tall, slender females, I’ll call Wobblies, were dressed inappropriately for skating.  The Wobblies were not bounding about but hesitantly navigating the rink in fits and starts.  One long haired blonde girl had tight hip huggers with a pronounced rhinestone belt.  Maybe the worst to see wasn’t her “get up” but the way her skates were loosely tied.  She looked very precarious merely because of her height and the distance she would fall down at any given moment.  I was afraid her pants would split in the process and she would lose any grandiose idea of dignity in this skating process.  Her companion dressed more sensibly but both should have considered workout clothes befitting for fast falls to the hard ice.  They had young male trainers help them around the ice but at first I thought they were dates to the young men who actually DID know how to skate.


Once the two ,young female Wobblies time was up, which probably wasn’t soon enough to their liking, they promenaded around the food court area in their street clothes, dignity restored and looking a lot more comfortable.  TIME for the little squirts to be on the ice ranging in ages from 5 to 9 years old.  One little Kazakh girl in a black and red leotard was being scolded presumably by her mother who was on the other side of the partition.  Their faces were 3 inches from each other and the little girl was wiping away tears.  Whatever her infraction, she got over it once her fellow skaters came and she was whirling around with the best of them.  She was all of 7-8 years old and was missing a front top tooth.  That was the first melodrama I witnessed, let’s call her Tearful I.


Next on the ice was a very mature skater who whipped around confidently with great speed.  This man is one whom I have seen before many times at the rink and is perhaps a former Olympic skater, at least I like to think this late 50s male figure skater with graying hair once was.  Mr. Olympic skater has an infinite amount of patience with his young charges and they seem to adore him.  Simultaneous to his presence and those of his little ones, Tearful II made her appearance on the rink.  She was trying to do her spin and jump and was crashing to the ice or never completing a graceful landing to her satisfaction.  Tearful II was mad at herself and everyone else around her.


Tearful II put on a frown whenever other novice skaters got in her way.  Meanwhile she was under the ever watchful eyes of Mr. Olympic skater.  I saw her bad attitude worsen with each failure and then an older woman, maybe her grandmother with coke bottle glasses, was giving her a talking to from the spectator section of the rink.  Unbelievably, Tearful II kept rehearsing and not getting it right until she miraculously got one spin, jump and turn out right. This breakthrough must have been her tenth try, I could see she was keeping track by counting it out on her fingers. 


Finally, Tearful II showed what might have been mistaken for a smile after her innumerable times she would cry or pout to the side.  If she wasn’t getting instruction from Mr. Olympic Skater, she would continue to give herself a stiff talking to.  In any case, Tearful II was about 11 or 12 years old and maybe trying to prepare for an upcoming competition.  I thought she was a bit high strung and prima donna-like but that is probably what continued to compel her into the air and down again.  I was encouraged by Tearful II’s inner drive to succeed.


Making a short appearance on the ice was a woman trainer with a harness around the chest of another little girl about the same age as Tearful II who was practicing her jump, spin and landing. No doubt she was Tearful II’s future nemesis in figure skating competitions. The spinning duo must have practiced that tricky move about five times before it became too congested with so many younger skaters getting under skated foot.   By this time, there were probably about 15-20 skaters on the ice which maxes this particular small rink out at the size of about 60-70 feet long and about 50 feet wide.


Another cute little girl who had my undivided attention was probably about 3-4 years old.  She had a little purple dress on with white leotards underneath.   I marveled that “Cute-T’s” mother on the sidelines had probably watched this little blondie with the pony tail take her first baby steps just two years earlier.  I say, start them young because if you don’t, they turn into the Wobblie sisters and then it seems a lost cause. At one point, Cute-T took a terrible spill while she was with her lanky and young male trainer.  She produced copious tears and he quickly scooped her up and skated her over to Mama.  About five minutes later Cute-T came skating by me again, concentrating hard on staying aright.  She looked all mopped up from her earlier tragedy and obeying her trainer to keep her arms out straight, looking like a Cute, little T.


Sitting next to us was another mother reading a thick classic book in Russian, her darling daughter would spin by and talk to her periodically.  Every now and then this mother would peek up from her novel and watch her daughter practice her figure skating moves.  Parents are responsible for bringing each of these little skaters and paying the trainers and instructors for helping them learn more refined, figure skating moves.  One little boy stole my heart with his cautious moves on the ice in his figure skates, not much older than Cute T. Many more girls than boys aspire to be skating champs or it may be that there is another skating rink solely dedicated to the future male hockey players of Kazakhstan.


Waxing philosophical, I thought of my writing students as being similar to these young skaters.  My students have parents who are indirectly paying me, as their instructor, to teach their children to know how to write academic essays in English.  Many of them look like the Wobblie sisters because they have not had early training about the importance of writing.  Others may be very frustrated with what is expected of them with our convoluted assignments (in attempts to avoid plagiarism) and are acting like Tearful II as they struggle to get their papers done just right.  Hopefully there are other writers in my classroom who have Cute-T’s early education on how to write.  My Kazakh students all have had to start somewhere as do these skaters. 


My guess is also that these trainers and instructors don’t get paid much while they try to encourage budding talent.  However, they probably have as much heart about wanting all of their charges to succeed as I do with my writing students.  Teaching future skaters and writers in English is not a lucrative business.  But it is the joy to see breakthroughs which is our final reward.  I am just now beginning to be paid in “breakthroughs.”

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