Lesson of the Day: ‘New York City’s First Skateboarding Superstar’

Lesson of the Day: ‘New York City’s First Skateboarding Superstar’

Please note: Each current events “Lesson of the Day” (renamed from our old “Article of the Day” feature) aims to be usable in a single class period.

Featured Article: “New York City’s First Skateboarding Superstar

We chose this article, from The New York Times Magazine, because sports broadly, and skateboarding, specifically, are rarely brought into classrooms and academic settings. The questions and activities below will help students to consider both what it takes to make it big for one talented skater as well as the perils and pitfalls for all Gen Z’ers seeking fame and fortune in the age of social media.

Please note that this is a long article; accordingly, the questions in the Writing and Discussion section pertain to the first half of the feature.

Have you ever tried skateboarding? Are you any good? Can you do any tricks? A kickflip? Grind? Ollie? Do you think you could jump over a garbage can? What do you think makes a good skateboarder? Athleticism? Style? Fearlessness? Swagger?

In the article, you will meet Tyshawn Jones, who is described as “someone who rapidly and almost out of nowhere redefines what’s physically possible on a board.”

Scroll through the images and videos in the article.

What do you notice? What do you wonder? What do you think are the qualities that make Jones both a great skateboarder and a star in the skateboarding community? Which maneuver or trick do you find most impressive and why?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Compare the skateboard cultures in California, the sport’s “ancestral homeland,” to New York? How does Jones use the landscape of New York City to his advantage?

2. How does Jones make money from his skateboarding? Do you think it is a sustainable way to earn a living? How does his story exemplify the connection between fashion, social media and fame in 2019?

3. How did Jones’s ollie over a subway entrance in Manhattan “symbolize” his life’s journey? How is that trick like “doing a parabolic calculus problem with your body while also attempting suicide?” How would you describe the trick in your own words?

4. Toward the end of the article, Termisha Henry, Mr. Jones’s mother, says of his many sponsors:

‘You can’t depend on these companies forever. They use you until they can’t use you anymore … Don’t ever think they just love you, and they just want to give you this and that. No, they get something out of it, so make sure you always get yours.

Do you agree with her? In what ways is Jones being used by sponsors? In what ways could it be said that he is using them?

5. After reading the article, how have your views on the sport of skateboarding changed? Do you think it deserves more respect and attention? Should skaters like Jones be considered world-class athletes along side Stephen Curry and Tom Brady?

Choose one or more of the following questions to respond to in writing or discussion with your classmates:

  • What did you find most interesting or compelling about Jones? What quote, image or video stood out to you, and why?

  • Do you think Jones deserves the attention he is getting from the skateboard community and beyond? Should he be considered a positive role model? Or do you think his street-style skateboarding recklessly endangers others, or himself?

  • What life lessons can we learn from his story?