If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How Summer Camp Made Me Fall In Love With Teaching

Today was the first day of the summer program at my school. On the whole things went pretty smoothly, at least as far as I know at the moment. Unlike most summer camps, our students come in only for the classes that they are interested in. This leads to a rather complex pick up and drop off system with four distinct times for dropping the kids off, and then four more partially overlapping times for pick up. I call it a win that on the first day all the kids arrived and departed successfully and safely, especially with a thunder storm rolling in on us as the last students departed.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that working at a summer camp during college played a big part in my eventual decision to become a teacher. I thought today I would share the story because it is representative to me of what makes teaching so rewarding.

I was teaching Red Cross swimming as part of the sports camp at my former high school. My classes were small, usually about four or five kids of a similar level. My job in the four week session was to move them as far along towards their next swimming level as possible.

One of my classes was a group of girls going into third and fourth grades. They were relatively advanced for that age group, and were working towards their Level 5 card. In order to pass they had to demonstrate competence with the breaststroke (among other things).

One of the better overall swimmers in the group was a very outgoing and friendly girl, we'll call her Colleen. Colleen had crawl stroke down pat. She could do the elementary backstroke. She could tread water, and did a very confident forward dive into the deep end of the pool. But breaststroke was beyond her. We practiced the movements on land. We practiced the kick with a kick board. She could do all the pieces, but when it came time to put it all together in the water, Colleen just couldn't get it right. She just flopped around awkwardly, unable to move herself through the water. It was clear that she was going to finish the summer without getting her Level 5 card.

Then, on the second to last day of camp, Colleen hopped into the pool, and swam the breaststroke from one side to the other, perfectly and without stopping. Somehow, magically and overnight, Colleen had figured it out.

What amazed me at the time, and started me on the road to the career I love so much, is how happy it made me to watch her swim. She had worked so hard at it all summer, and all that work had paid off just in time. That joy in another person's accomplishment was a feeling I wanted to have again, and fortunately it is one I have had many times since.

There have been many frustrating days in my teaching career so far. I have sat with a pile of partially graded tests in front of me, thinking that if one more high school kid tried to tell me that Puerto Rico was a country in Europe I would quit right then and there. But overall, it is the students like Colleen, and the moments like that one watching her swim the breaststroke, that stick with me the most. As long as they bring me joy, I will continue to enjoy calling myself a teacher.

1 comment:

Melissa B. said...

The best part is when that "lightbulb" goes off, isn't it? Good for Colleen! Good for you!!