While I would not call myself an avid skier, I would say that I love to ski. I am a traditional “two-planker” as opposed to being a snow-boarder. My parents introduced me to the sport when I was in grade 9 and I really began to develop a love for moguls and high speed cruising when I worked for a ski shop. Once again, my time in the ski shop was mostly spent in the technical areas. I was trained and certified as a binding installer, a boot fitter, and in the art of tuning and waxing skis. I was blessed to be trained by the lead ski technician, Chris, and he had been trained by one of the Canadian national ski team technicians.
Chris was a perfectionist when it came to working on the base of a ski. Back in the day, a ski tuning machine was basically a very large belt-grinder. The skill came in applying consistent pressure to the ski over its entire length, as well as in moving the ski over the belt at a consistent speed. In the past 20 or so years, most ski shops have gone to tuning machines that have an auto-feed system built in to them that takes the elements of speed and pressure out of the hands of the technician. When it was just the “touch” of the technician, it was really an art as well as a science to tuning and finishing skis.
While he was training me, Chris would have me repeat the phrase, “I am an auto-feed,” over and over. It was a way to keep your focus on the speed and pressure you were applying to the ski on the belt-grinder. Each pair of skis was different from all the other pairs because they had been skied by different people, in different ways, on different terrains, and with differing materials in the construction of the skis. It was the touch of the technician that had to differentiate and adjust pressure and speed to work with each pair.
There are times when I hear that phrase in my head while I work at ACS. Report card writing is one such time. As I write this, I am in the midst of reading all the middle school report cards. One of the reasons I read them is to gain a better sense of who all our students are. I appreciate how teachers need to get through assessments while at the same time recognizing that each student is unique. The speed and pressure that need to be applied to “tune” each student needs to vary based on who that student is and where they are in life. At the same time, teachers need to be consistent when dealing with the ups and downs of middle school lives. I have never heard it, but in some ways I think our teachers are gifted in the art of being in auto-feed mode. Even more so, they are excellent in the art and science of teaching a diverse group of God’s kids with a consistent grace.
One of the benefits of my job in the ski shop was access to a corporate ski pass to the ski resort of Fernie. During ski season I had Tuesdays off, as I had to work on Saturdays, and almost every Tuesday I would take the company ski pass and travel to Fernie for a day on the slopes. The store manager would often take Tuesdays off as well and we would ski together. It became a bit of a blessed routine that I would tune my skis after work on Mondays and then ski on Tuesdays. This was a great way to gain first-hand experience of what my work on the bases meant for how the skis performed. In the same way, teachers get to see the results of their work with students as they spend time writing report cards. Hopefully, the chance to assess leads to a better understanding of who each student is and how much pressure and speed to use for this final term of the school year.