Why I Love Teaching – So Proud!

So far, I have spent 3 years of teaching lifeguarding. It has given me the privilege of working with hundreds of students across the state. It sounds crazy, but it is true. I have loved every class I taught. Some of these people are current lifeguards. Others are brand new. Some are even adults among the high school and college kids that saturate the lifeguarding job market.

Every time I teach a class, the class has a different personality all based upon the people in the class. You remove one or add just one person, and the personality shifts. That is true about everything.

Rarely, do I single out a specific class because … well … it is singling them out above the others. Given the fact that every person, who takes my class and passes (all of them!!), gives their heart and soul each time they set foot in the pool, it is hard to shine the spotlight on just one group of students.

This time, however, I need to do so anyway.

My lifeguarding class this past weekend (and yes, I taught an intensive 4-day version of my course) reached an incredible level of standard. This group of 7 students filled the pool with color, confidence and vibrant attention to detail. I could tell at the beginning of the course, when I handed them the syllabus, they were intimidated and a little nervous because there was so much to learn and master in a short period of time. Over the past 4 days, I saw them learning from each other and giving each other constant feedback rather than me having to teach and correct every little detail to them. I saw them get frustrated when they couldn’t do it 12 times in a row, but get excited and “pumped” when they got it on the 13th time and it was all because their classmates found the problem. I heard them asking a lot of questions, specifically follow-up questions to get clarity on various topics.

Most importantly, I saw their confidence. And it was not until I made everyone sit in the hot tub after Saturday’s final class for a final reflection to where I really felt like I had done my job.

One student began telling her story. Her story (and apparently I found out about this on the day of the first class) started 2 weeks prior to her taking my course. She came to the Y and worked with a staff member every day for 4 hours. During this time, she practiced all 3 skills that were part of the skills test that students need to pass in order to take the lifeguarding course. She did not know how to go under the water to retrieve the dive brick. She did not know how to swim back to the shallow end with the dive brick after going in 12 feet of water to get it from the bottom. She didn’t know how to tread water. She didn’t know how to swim strongly. Come time to the first day of the course when students took the skills test, she passed all 3 with flying colors.

At the end of the final class (Saturday’s class), she talked about constantly being picked on, self-esteem very low, and never got positive praise or encouragement. She admitted that she was a track star on the high school team but thought this was the most challenging thing she ever did. She said to me:

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“I was scared when I found out we had to rescue you for our final water tests because I knew that you were going to make it difficult. I feel like after I did the rescues on you, as hard as you made it for me and no matter how many times you made me do it until I did it right, I can do anything and I can save anyone’s life. And your course taught me to say a big F*** YOU to everyone in my life who thought I would amount to nothing so I just wanted to say thank you Drew for telling me that I was worth something in life and for giving me the opportunity to make myself a more stronger person.”

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Another student said to me:

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After I took this course, I realized that I had an ignorant mindset about what lifeguarding was. I thought all lifeguards do was collect a paycheck and sit in a chair for hours. I learned that lifeguards do much more than watch the water; I never knew like there were scanning patterns and even methods to write up an accident incident report for EMS … I just couldn’t believe how much is actually involved in lifeguarding and now I understand why you preach it being a sacred profession … I feel like I can go and educate people that might think lifeguarding is all about sitting in a chair and getting a tan. I know I have a lot that I am expected to do, and I am still nervous about it because lifeguarding is not what I thought it was, but I know how to do it and do it with love.

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Finally, another student said:

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I think after actually doing all the skills over and over until we got sick and tired of them helped me with the final test where we had to rescue you … because at first I was intimidated after watching other people try to rescue you and fail because you were a great pretend victim who not only put up a struggle but honestly, you were the last person that I ever expected to put me in a choke hold under water where I actually felt like I was going to drown, until I realized that you taught us what to do … so I did exactly what you taught me and I got out of your choke hold. I’m glad I took this course because it taught me that its all mental and that I know how to do it and need to give myself credit and just do it without doubting myself.

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As a proud teacher, I am not about glorifying myself. I am not about making myself look good. I am not about giving myself praise for what I am doing. What I am about, is helping people. If I could help at least one person, then I have done my job. It makes me proud to know that I can have some sort of impact on someone … or in this case, a group of people.

I simply could not be more proud of this special group and their work ethic, commitment to “get better,” and drive.

So to this group of students, if you get a chance to read this one day, my wish is that as you get hired and begin working, that you scoop water from the pool, hold that water in the palm of your hand, never let it leave your hand, and find some sort of meaning in knowing that water represents someone’s life that is in our hand. And that person, along with us, might never get that life back, that we do not realize how precious a human life is it until we actually experience it. Because that is what lifeguarding is.

I believe that a good teacher has experience. My 9 years of experience as a lifeguard serves as the basis for what I teach and how I teach it, whether it be the American Red Cross lifeguarding curriculum or no specific curriculum at all. I push myself to always train lifeguards the way that I did things when I was a lifeguard all those years.

You guys were awesome this weekend. Good luck in your pursuit for experience. Wear your guard tube and whistle with pride.

Thank you for an incredible experience.

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