I knew after graduation that I wanted to be a teacher, but I originally planned on teaching high school history and coaching. After my junior year of college, two things happened that made me change my focus from secondary to elementary. The first was attending a job fair at Western Michigan University. The lines for secondary history teachers who wanted to coach strongly resembled the lines for a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point. After a pretty long day of meeting with principals and superintendents and feeling like I was number, I was having some second thoughts about my major. But then another thing happened in the summer that made my mind up completely.
I had been working as a lifeguard and teaching swim lessons every summer while I was in college. I was working with children ages 5 to 12 and absolutely loved it. I had a superman clipboard and gave out superhero stickers for all the kids at the end of the lessons. I enjoyed creating the activities, designing the lessons, and seeing their excitement as they went from being afraid to put their face in the water to swimming across the pool! They had fun and so did I. After one of the sessions, my director said to me, “It’s a shame you are going to work in a high school, because you are a natural with this age group”. I started thinking even more about that job fair and how much I truly enjoyed working with the younger kids. While I was thinking this, one of the young students from my beginners class walked up beside me and slipped her hand into mine and just started walking around the pool with me. I vividly remember what a funny thing it was that she was so comfortable with me that she would just hold my hand. It was so touching and I marveled at the trust of a child. I’m sad that I don’t remember that child’s name, but I still remember that feeling of surprise and smiling at the thought of that little girl just walking up and holding her swim teacher’s hand like it was the most natural thing in the world.
That fall, I returned to school and changed my major to Elementary Education. I then I went a step further and got my Early Childhood Endorsement as well. It added on an additional year of classes as well as summer school, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I did my student teaching and lots of subbing in kindergarten and I still have a t-shirt those students made for me in that first class (they are all grown up now). I have had wonderful experiences as an elementary teacher and later as a principal, but they were all put into motion by those fun experiences as a swim instructor and a trusting child who decided to hold my hand.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
“Change is the end result of all true learning.” – Leo Buscaglia