Nick Laws, Prince Rupert Northern View
A teacher at Charles Hays secondary school is trying something new to fight back against poor attendance at his northern B.C. school.
Dane Waldal although relatively new to Charles Hays, has been teaching for quite some time and he has noticed a pattern, a pattern he is trying to change.
“ Every school I’ve worked at has always had its issues with attendance, so I figured I could contribute a little bit in my own way.”
Waldal’s way is a kickboxing class that gets the kids off their seats and on their feet. The catch? Attendance is mandatory, but not for his class, for all of the student’s other classes.
In order for kids to participate in the twice-weekly class, they will have to attend all other classes, and have their slips signed by their teachers. The results speak for themselves.
Anna Ashley, a fellow teacher at Charles Hays has noticed a change in the students enrolled in Waldal’s class.
“I have noticed that since he has had an incentive program with them, they are doing more of their work and they are paying attention in class because they want to participate in his class.”
The school switched from a semester program to a trimester program, which gave teachers the opportunity to open up two 45-minute classes per week. Waldal’s love of martial arts is what drove him to start the class.
“I’ve been a martial artist for over a decade, I’ve competed in wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing and kickboxing, so I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to participate in the same thing that I love.”
Waldal has tweaked the traditional kickboxing training techniques, for a more school safe environment. Instead of the traditional heavy bags, pads and mats, Waldal has implemented the use of shortened pool noodles as instruction tools.
“We don’t have the equipment for wrestling or jiu-jitsu, but with kickboxing, we’ve got a big open space and some tools we can use to modify it.”
Waldal says that he chose martial arts partly because of his love for the sport, but also for the discipline factor involved in martial arts, taking years of repetition to reach your potential. Something he equates to school and life in general.
“I’m encouraging them to get to class, get there on time and put the work in every day and then good things are going to come from there.”
Although the early stages have yielded positive results for both sides, Ashley warns that too many incentive-based programs may not be the path to go down just yet.
“It’s a win-win for both sides right now and I think there’s always room for things that incentivize children to do different things. That being said, I don’t know if we always want to say in order to get this, you have to do that.”
For Waldal, as long as the kids continue to have fun and keep their attendance up he is going to keep the class going.
“ I can’t be happier with the direction it’s going, just hoping more kids get into it and more kids want to sign up.”