As a former hockey player and lifelong lover of the sport, I moved to Boston as a broke graduate school in the fall of 2020 and needed to find something to earn grocery money. A childhood hockey teammate of mine was also living in Boston and hooked me up with a job teaching children (from ages three/four to eighteen) how to skate. The pay is about as good as side jobs get—in fact, I actually make more hourly than at my day job—and unbeknownst to me, I learned that I love teaching. Going on three years later, the side job has stuck and I’ve taught some five hundred kids in the greater Boston area how to skate. 

But, as any teacher of mostly elementary school aged children knows, pedagogy is but half of the job. I can’t say that I’ve seen it all—I’ve only been doing this for a few years—but try to imagine a typical, hectic second-grade classroom…only instead of being in the friendly confines of a classroom, or even the more rambunctious but still controllable blacktop of recess, it’s on ice. 

Here are some of the craziest things I’ve seen teaching ice skating. 

“I’m a real unicorn!”

One girl, who I’ll call Emily, yells at me correctively whenever I accidentally resort to using the name written on her helmet’s nametag. “I’m a real unicorn!” she tells me with the complete conviction that “real unicorn” works just as well as any proper noun.

The Blood Incident

One Sunday evening of my second year of teaching I was responsible for the more advanced skaters’ “practice” time, in which they have free skating time while the less advanced skaters receive their small group lessons. I was responsible for about forty children of varying skating abilities and ages. One young girl screamed “blood!” and then, naturally, everyone freaked out, as two small puddles of blood were spotted about five feet apart. Sprinklings of blood began to pop up all across the half of the ice I was responsible for. Nobody claimed to be bleeding, which only elevated the stress of the situation. Had we missed a kid leaving the ice? Is someone bleeding without noticing? How did I, and all of the parents observing, miss the incident? 

After stopping the practice for about twenty minutes and interrogating all of the children (in front of their parents, mind you), I notice some more sprinkles of blood leading right up to a young boy (probably around ten) standing against the boards. Noticing something red, almost pink, fall from his pocket, I ask him to show me his pockets. Without any facial expressions whatsoever, he pulls out an open packet of red Kool-Aid powder.

I never found out if the kid’s shenanigans were purposeful, or, perhaps more disturbingly, if he was just snacking on dry Kool-Aid.

Punching siblings

About a month ago, two “small dot” (less advanced) siblings who are consistent trouble-starters decided to have a makeshift boxing match on the ice. The elder, the sister, winds up and slugs her brother. Having no tolerance for physical violence, we remove both kids. “But they can both come back next week, right?” the mom asks, clearly aware of their trouble-making tendencies and somewhat desperate to exhaust them with an hour of supervised physical activity. “As long as they don’t fight,” my coordinator tells her.

“But it’s just paint”

My company teaches at a variety of local ice rinks, either hired by the local government or purchasing our own ice for the lessons. One local rink, whose local politics are interesting in their own right, might be the worst non-outdoor ice I’ve ever skated on. It’s a barn set-up, so it’s basically outdoors, and birds regularly shit and knock their nesting on the ice. The ice, especially in the corners, doesn’t fully reach the boards and creates dangerous gaps right on any rink’s already most dangerous location (the corners). The Zamboni also needs a makeover and sometimes overflows certain spots while trying to overcompensate for the gaps, creating hard multi-inch thick bubbles above the ice that are the stuff of figuring skating nightmares. 

One week, the ice melted around the far blueline. The paint that creates the blueline was visible in a way it should never be. 

“What’s this?” a small dot asks one of my co-workers.

“Paint. Don’t touch it.” 

“Why not? It’s just paint.” 

*The small dot then grabs a fistful of the wet, blue paint and without even looking instinctively rubs it all over his khakis.*

Ice-licking, snow-eating, and yellow snow–making

Do I really need to spell each of these incidents out? It’s probably better if I don’t.

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