As teachers, we can sometimes spend a whole year working with students and see growth in their reading, writing, or other skills. We can see that they wrote a better paper or that they were able to solve more difficult math problems. At the end of the day though, those papers are thrown out or tucked away somewhere and forgotten. The teacher is not always left with something tangible after the students leave their classroom.
Last school year, a student, Jacob, chose to build a boat for his 20 Time project. He was going to work with his grandfather and built a boat in his basement. I told him I would take a ride in that boat when he was ready to launch. As the year moved forward, I was able to see updates on his boat building and read about all of the things he learned from his grandfather during this time. When it came time to share what he learned during 20 Time, he did not talk much about boat making. He talked about the value of spending time with his grandfather and all of the things he learned in their time together. He encouraged others to spend more time with their older relatives because they have so much to offer. It was a beautiful speech and I really felt like Jacob walked away with something he would never forget.
Fast forward to the start of September and I received an email from Jacob telling me he was finally ready to launch the boat and he wanted to know if I was still on board with taking it for a test spin. I was so happy that he remembered that I offered to take a ride when he was done and gleefully arranged a launch date with him. I showed up at the park and walked toward the beach and this was what I saw.
I was blown away by the work he put in over the course of a year. The pictures do not do this boat justice. It was beautiful. For some reason, it made me think of The Great Gatsby and the type of boats people would have used to move between West and East Egg. It was a stunning creation that would be worthy of any sailor.
The seats doubled as storage areas and he built an anchor mount so he could anchor offshore and fish or just relax. The paint job was spectacular and the interior and exterior was as smooth as can be. You could see the detail and the time it took to make this boat just right. It was clearly a labor of love. I couldn't wait to go for a quick ride around the shore.
It was a wonderfully smooth and dry ride around the beach area of the park. We talked about the project and the school year. It was very relaxing boat trip after a long day of school.
After returning to shore the parents thanked me for giving Jacob the opportunity to do the project and create something amazing. I told them I just got out of the way and let my kids create. This was all Jacob and his passion to do something different. I felt so honored to be one of the first people on the boat and to be able to share in this really cool experience. The boat is something tangible that Jacob will have for years to come that will remind him of the fact that anything is possible.
For me, the boat will be a symbol of why 20 Time is so important for our students. Jacob built a boat, strengthened his relationship with his grandfather, and learned about himself over the past year in a way that a Common Core aligned exam could never measure.