Conquering our fears together

By Kayla McLaughlin, SwimSailScience and Summer Learning Project Head Sailing Instructor

 

“Teachers of young children do one of the best things that there is to do in life: bring joy and beauty, mystery and mischievous delight into the hearts of little people in their years of greatest curiosity”  -Jonathan Kozol

For the past three years I have had the pleasure of working with children from the Boston Public Schools, through the SLP and SSS programs. In that time, I have seen just how fitting the above quote is. It has been inspiring to watch 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders from some of the most difficult neighborhoods of Boston, conquer their fears, discover their passions, and accomplish their goals while sailing on the harbor.

After going sailing everyday, I usually gather my students, and talk with them about how their sail went. Everyone typically shares something they learned, something they are curious about, or a fear they had while out on the water. A few weeks ago, I was talking to Tyrese and Kathia about how their mornings went. Tyrese, a student from the Sarah Greenwood School, was having difficulty overcoming his fear of windy days. When I called on Kathia, a student at the Harvard Kent School, to tell the group what she learned on the water, she explained “Today, I learned that overcoming your fears makes you stronger”. When I asked, she elaborated, stating, “We were tipping over so much today, we got water in the boat! I knew Tyrese was scared, so I held his hand. I really liked how we worked as a team to overcome our fears. I also felt really brave, because I picked up the jelly fish that was in our boat, and put it in the water”. After her beautiful explanation, I asked Tyrese and Kathia if they felt like sailors, to which they both smiled and responded, “yes!”

Every day, I watch my staff kindle “mystery and mischievous delight” into the hearts of our students, and the students have done the same for us. My instructors and I celebrate amazing victories, such as the one I described above, and I consider it an honor to use sailing as a way to build confidence, conquer fears, and establish camaraderie and a sense of community for the young people of Boston.