Many teachers perhaps wish they could make use of a megaphone in class like Everett Tetz gets to do.
But the teachers at Red Deer’s Glendale Sciences and Technology School do not have to contend with rolling wheels, the slap of runaway skateboards on concrete, or the excited chatter of students attempting their first ollies while in class.
In fact, there may be no other teacher in the province, or the country, that deals with such a din, because the school’s new program offering of skateboarding in class could be the only one of its kind in Canada.
On Wednesday, class started with a discussion on boarding safety and how one configures the parts of the board to fit one’s own riding style.
Then, the students excitedly grabbed their helmets and boards and, not waiting for their teacher, raced out to the brand new boarding park adjacent to the north-end school.
After no more than a minute, ever-eager Noah Goodwin’s board was flying in the air and he was falling onto the hard slope of one of the park’s two bowls.
This fall did not do any damage, but the 11-year-old may actually have wished that it did.
“It’s a lot of fun, until you get hurt,” he said.
And then, a pause, and Goodwin shows off a still-healing wound from a past tumble: “But it’s still fun after that. It’s actually quite fun getting hurt, ‘cause then you get to learn what you did wrong.”
Novice skateboarders ollieing their way to injuries is not something Tetz wants, of course, as his emphasis on safety in class demonstrates.
But, he said, the perception that skateboarding is more dangerous than more traditional pursuits like basketball or football is actually false, despite what the blood-splattering graphics on Tony Hawk video games might suggest.
And some of the greenest students were not ready on Wednesday to hop up onto the board on their two feet, preferring to ride around on their bums, or even their stomachs. Tetz said the sport naturally allows for creativity and a lot of trial and error.
“Schools are really moving towards creativity being at the centre of education. Having skated most of my life, it still stands that some of the most creative people I know have skateboarded.
“There’s just something about it. It’s sort of self-taught. It attracts the kids that don’t learn well out of a textbook or by a coach. They’re really teaching themselves, they’re problem solving, and just finding creative ways to express themselves on a skateboard,” he said.
The class is an even split between girls and boys.
Like Goodwin, Taylor Bazylo had tried skateboarding before the class was offered, having started two years ago.
Her brothers taught her to skateboard and longboard, and though one of those brothers wrecked the board she owns, she is still eager to skate and learn from the class how to do tricks.
“I like it. I think it was a really good idea to make this a class,” she said.
It is not fully a class just yet though. This semester it is operating as a part of the Recreation Education class offering while Tetz develops a curriculum for a skateboarding-specific class.
“I want to promote skateboarding, but this is about education for me. Schools need to adapt to the kids that we’re teaching, and this is a part of that. For some teachers, it’s just as simple as bringing in what they’re passionate about, and connecting with what the kids are passionate about. This is more about engagement, giving kids skills to move forward with, all that kind of stuff,” said Tetz.
He will present his curriculum to the division board in January, with the board then to decide whether skateboarding can stand alone as a class. It would be offered as an elective to Grade 7 and 8 students at Glendale.
“It’s going to be insane. I’ve got a huge group of 7s and 8s who are really just chomping at the bit to get at it. It’s think it’s going to be a long list,” said Tetz.
His main duty at the school is as its guidance counsellor, and he sees his skateboarding teaching as somewhat of an extension of that job.
“I get to work with kids in a different capacity and a lot of those kids who you’d classify as hard-to-reach kids, we have the opportunity to bond over something as trivial as skateboarding. It’s a moment for us to get together and talk and spend time together, so it’s a real positive thing,” he said.
Should the course be approved by the board, it would become one in a long list of locally-developed courses for middle school students in the Red Deer Public School Division.
Recreation Education itself was such a course; others include Hockey Skills, Scrapbooking, and Science Fiction Reading and Creative Writing.
Division deputy superintendent Stu Henry said the Recreation Education course was initially designed by an elementary school that had its own bus to use to shuttle students around town for activities such as bowling and rock climbing. Now that other schools have buses at their disposal, he said he expects they too will look at skateboarding as an educational option, even if only Glendale has a skate park on school grounds.
“I would believe that as Mr. Tetz develops this course, it’ll become popular and it’ll probably get picked up elsewhere as well,” said Henry.
Neither Tetz nor Henry were aware of any other schools in Canada that offer skateboarding as a class, but Tetz said some schools in the U.S. do. Tetz has also run an extra-curricular skate club with 30-40 attendees after school for the last three years.
The new skate park, at 21,000 square feet, opened earlier this year and has proven popular with students and adults alike. In past years, the club would practice on a simple concrete pad.
In addition to skating at the park, the class will learn some about skateboarding history and its relevance to modern culture. They will also have the opportunity to make and design their own boards from square one using a board press at the school.