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Spring Means Countering The Futility of Golf

by | Apr 17, 2022 | RE@L StudentCorner | 0 comments

Spring has sprung (almost) in the upper midwest. One can see signs of the season ‘springing’ to life all around us. The return of robins and other songbirds. The crack of the bat at spring training. And, of course, golf. There’s nothing that charges my batteries for spring each year than the Master’s Golf Tournament. And, while this year’s tournament did not end in a white-knuckled, one stroke victory, it was no different. It’s not just the golf that I appreciate, it’s the scenery. The beautifully plush green grounds conjure warm springtime musings. It’s like the golf gods are waiting for me to call.

When I watch the Master’s, I find myself making silent commitments in my head to golf more regularly than I do. I speed through websites to find out which area golf courses have opened for the season. I can’t wait to get out on that course and hit the ball like the professionals. Well, hit the ball, I mean. Or — well — sometimes hit the ball, I mean.

It’s always difficult to curb my enthusiasm until I actually golf for the first time each year. It’s then that I realize I’m just one among many hacks out there on the golf course and my game is a futile attempt at being close to satisfactory — whatever satisfactory means in golf. Golf can be the most brutal, self-deprecating game. It’s one of those games that looks so easy on television, but so futile sometimes to actually play.

Golf gives educators a similar futile feeling that many of our secondary school principals sometimes feel when it comes to vaping in their schools. (That’s a good pivot in a game of divots, huh?) In most cases, the savvy principal understands that vaping IS happening in their school. The data makes it clear. And if there’s doubt, they might try peeking in the dark corners of the school to find the white smoke which dissipates in mere seconds.

But addressing vaping consistently is often one of the biggest challenges for the principal. When I was in high school and students were smoking cigarettes in a distant restroom, for instance, one could still smell it from one side of the school to other. In my first few years of teaching, the faculty lounge was also the smoking lounge for teachers. Suffice it to say, it was never pleasant to eat lunch in that unventilated room with its nicotine blue haze lingering up near the ceiling tiles which when new were bright white, but now brown and sticky. I’m sure our lungs fared the same fate.

Today, though, with the advent of more vaping, the equally hazardous habit that our teenagers are acquiring now is silent with no smell and virtually no visible evidence. Unless educators catch students in-the-act of vaping, it likely goes unnoticed. At other times, students may “snitch” to the principal on those vaping students. Still, this can lead down a path of punishments and — even worse — consequences that may have short term impact but do little to address the real problem. Vaping is one of those unique challenges for educators that cannot be fixed through disciplinary action alone. Simply. We cannot punish our way out of this situation.

While the data demonstrates that students across the nation continue to vape at unacceptable rates, their activity can easily go unseen in our schools — not at the fault of our educators — but with the big tobacco companies that continue to pursue nicotine delivery systems that produce little to no evidence. The philosophy? ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ Right? Wrong!

This is both a problem and a danger at the same time. If we as educators give up the battle to address vaping in our schools, we will have inadvertently acquiesced to those greedy, harm-causing vaping companies. Those of us who serve students simply can’t allow that to happen. Without a systematic intervention in the middle and upper grades, vaping will become a bigger challenge for society and a health threat to our youth.

RE@L believes strongly in a proactive approach to address this problem before students have their first opportunity to make it a problem. With our unique learning curriculum, 1Up On Vaping™, students become the main character in a web-based graphic arts story. It’s an engaging three chapter storyline which serves as a great tool for students to learn about nicotine and vaping. It includes games and activities that can be played year round to serve as reinforcements to the learning.

For the educator, 1Up On Vaping™ serves as a great resource to either supplement their current anti-tobacco curriculum or to replace it with something that students can do in a lab setting or at home.

How can you make this curriculum come alive in your school? 1Up On Vaping™ is available for a budget-friendly annual investment of $1000 per school in which the program is used. Yes, it’s a nominal cost, one that could perhaps be addressed in partnership with local health care agencies or groups like Rotary or your Chamber of Commerce. With everyone working together, we know we can take down teen nicotine.

While I view my golf game with the brutal fact: I’m bad. I still play. And I play because the best shot of my life might be the next one, and I don’t want to miss it. Our work to address vaping in our schools should not end in futility. It should improve the healthy decision-making of our students. It should be one of the many reasons we go back each day, every year for each child. Teacher tested and student tested, RE@L’s 1Up On Vaping™ can do just that!


*Some images in this post are provided courtesy of


Randy Nelson


Randy Nelson is a retired educator of 38 years. He served students as a high school speech, theater, and English teacher. He served colleagues as a director of curriculum and instruction; and, most recently he served the La Crosse, WI school district as its superintendent of schools. He has a strong leadership track record promoting choice and innovation via unique community partnerships. He currently serves RE@L, inc as its Director of Education.