"What are we going to do next?" "When is play time?" These were just two of the questions I was often asked while volunteering as a swimming instructor at the YMCA in Brockton, Massachusetts. I began volunteering in seventh grade. At first I was a teacher's assistant. On the day of my first class I thought it was going to be a mundane job. I presumed that since I had taken swimming lessons from the age of five that I knew everything there was to know about swimming. After all, I knew how to do all my strokes! However, I soon found out there was more to teaching swimming than just knowing how to swim.
During my first class I assisted the swimming instructor in teaching a group of five year olds. From that moment on, my perception of teaching changed. Teaching is communicating. To instruc children one has to make the lessons enjoyable and interesting for them to learn, or even pay attention. I had to learn many games that would help the children to develop as swimmers, such as, "Red Light, Green Light" and "Blast-Off."
I expected to teach a group of children but as it turned out my students were the ones who taught me how to be an effective teacher. Not only is it challenging to learn the children's names but it is also challenging to respond to their many personalities and moods. There are many rewards that go along with the volunteering to help children but the best is seeing a child accomplish a task that he or she could not do before they met you. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.