I have a lot of teachers in my family, so I had always thought of it as a possible career path. It was, however, usually a secondary possibilty to something else like acting, psychiatry, or undercover policework. Even though I tutored math and always enjoyed helping my peers with school work, I just didnt see myself as the teacher type. That was until I began my job as a skating instructor.
When I started as a skating instructor, I was given little preparation and handed regular classes of ten 6-10 or 4-5 year-olds. At first, because I was not prepared, it was frustrating and I did not enjoy the job at all. In my second season as a coach, I became friends with a couple of the head instructors at my shifts. They began to mentor me and share their knowledge and really sparked my interest and creativity with their ideas. I became very motivated and enthusiastic about the job. I began to create my own games and drills for my classes. The students responded to my increase in enthusiasm and energy with an increase of their own! Soon enough I was having fun at work, loving every minute of it. I started to get much better at instructing and received the 'Most Promising' coach award at the end of the season.
Over the following years I had many amazing and unique teaching experiences with children which have taught me a lot and helped to build my passion for teaching. I've learned that enthusiasm is very contagious and that if you're excited about something, that will usually rub off on your students. I've had children crying wanting to get off the ice on the first week end up crying on the last week because they don't want to leave. Even little girls who were scared of me on week 1 were making me crafts for the last class! Being able to help make someone excited about something (specifically learning something) really makes me happy. I actually had many parents of students tell me that I should become a teacher, one even jokingly threatened me if I didn't (phew!). Even still I was leaning towards a career in psychiatry.
In March of 2014, I was given a private lesson with a boy we'll call Nate, who had moderate-severe autism. Nate's mother's only goal was for him to stand up and move with assistance. The trouble with teaching Nate was that he was non-verbal and would not maintain eye contact, so it was hard to know if he was listening. He also required very specific instructions ( and even then he was not very responsive). At first he could not stand on his own or skate without assistance. He would stay lying on the ice and would not get up without a lot of convincing. That is until one lesson, where I sang a song that I use to demonstrate how to get up on skates. I sang the song and showed him the 3 steps for standing up on the ice. I noticed that he would listen to me sing, and perform the same actions. After a couple of lessons he was even singing along and getting up without any assistance. I also discovered that by singing to him, I could get him to skate without holding onto me or the boards.
After making this discovery, I could get him to do many different skating actions (stopping, backwards, slalom, etc.) as long as I was very specific in my directions and would sing a song relevant to the activity. For example: to get him to skate backwards, I would sing 'Row, row, row your boat' and perform rowing actions with my arms while skating backwards, and he would follow my lead. By the end of my lesson with Nate, he could get up, skate forward and backward and stop, all on his own. At the very last class, students are welcome for 25 mintues of free skating with family. Nate's mother couldn't skate so I skated with him. He skated beside me (unassisted!) for a full lap of the rink. As I brought him over to the doors, his mother was waving and smiling at him. When we arrived at the doorway, Nate's mother gave him a big hug and I noticed that she was crying. She thanked me profusely and told me she couldn't believe how much he had learned and that she never thought he would be able to do so much.
It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to teach for the rest of my life.