Building on Clare’s blog from yesterday and the notion of connecting well-‐being to schooling, I (Yiola) feel compelled to share with you the story of Simon Marcus. He is a member of my extended family and one of Canada’s top athletes in the sport of Muay Thai. In fact, Simon is a 5 time World Champion.
Simon’s story is not uncommon: a Black, male disengaged with traditional school. As a child, he was an active boy and excelled in sports but had very little patience and interest for learning inside the classroom. He has shared his schooling story with me numerous times and the story has been consistent, “It is not that I was not capable of doing the work, I just had no interest or motivation”. As his schooling years progressed he found himself deeper and deeper in spaces of alienation and low expectation for successful schooling. And then, he met Master Suchart, a Master teacher of Muay Thai. Through a pedagogy that engaged him (physical literacy), a teacher that knew how to connect to his well-‐being, and a developing belief in himself as a learner and a winner, Simon went from detentions and failure to being on top of the world. The one statement that rings in my ears about Simon’s journey to success is this turning point, “I knew Master Suchart believed in me. His belief in me made me believe in myself”. The ideas of well-‐being, trust, care and belief paved the way to Simon’s success. A teacher’s role in the well-‐being of a student is key: the social conditions created in a classroom, the relationships fostered and the pedagogical decisions a teacher makes are key.
From my own experiences as a Muay Thai fighter, I can say it is much easier to prepare for and pass a science test at school than it is to prepare for and step into a Muay Thai ring and yet the big questions worth exploring are: how did the teaching and learning at the Muay Thai school connect well-‐being to schooling success? What process took place for Simon to connect with the learning, embrace the teacher and believe in himself? Perhaps the kinesthetic element of the pedagogy, perhaps the content, perhaps the teacher as role model and unconditional supporter, perhaps the challenge and, very likely the overheard whisperings of his teacher: “see that boy over there, he’s my future champion”.
Simon’s victory in Buenos Aires, Argentina against Argentina’s #1 fighter.
Simon with his teacher, celebrating a victory together.