Lessons Learned


SOL March Challenge #3

I have one sister.  She is seven years older than myself.  As a kid she wasn’t involved in many school/sports activities.  She was a child of the ’60’s.  She was busy with “other” types of activities, if you know what I mean.  I think my mom saw a few things she could change with her second daughter and proceeded to put me in every activity she could get her hands on when I was growing up!  Some were hits.  Others were flops.  Thanks, mom.

In my music “career” I started out playing the violin.  Flop.  My poor parents had to endure some painful nights of practicing.  My dad visions of me playing in the Chicago Symphony were dashed around lesson #3 of the violin.  I sounded like a sick cow begging for mercy.  Today I certainly do not play for the symphony, but I appreciate it greatly.  Listening to an orchestra can bring me to tears.  Thanks, Dad.

I switched to flute in 6th grade and it was a pretty big hit.  By high school I was competing with Linda V. for 1st chair.  I don’t remember many of the kids from my high school, but Linda V. was my nemesis.  She and I would battle back and forth.  One year she was 1st chair and I was 2nd.  The next year I would regain the crown.  It went like that for all four years of high school.  I wasn’t only competing for the chair, but also for the attention of my, I mean our, band director; Mr. Kochman.  God I loved that man.  He came along a couple of years after my father died and took on a fatherly role in my life.  Mr Kochman taught me that children can be ours even if we didn’t have a hand in bringing them into this world.  Thanks, Marty.

My mom, my other very important teacher, thought I would be the kind of kid who liked to swim.  Big hit.  I absolutely loved the water.  I was like a fish.  Every summer I rode my bike to and from the “Aqua Center.”  My friends and I stayed from morning till night.  Night swimming was so exciting.  Hot nights, cool water.  Big, big hit.  Because I loved swimming so much my mom thought I should join the swim team at school.  Flop.  I’ve never been a get-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn kind of girl.  The structure of swim meets and practices were not for me.  Before the swim team,  however, there were swimming lessons.

Swim lessons were another big hit in my life.  Except for the first couple of each new season.  I don’t know what happened to me over the winter, but every June when I returned to the Aqua Center for my first lesson, I froze.  First, I was scared to get in the water.  Then, I was scared to go under the water.  Then, I was scared to dive off the side.  Then, I was scared to dive off the board.  Everyone had to cajole me into doing these things at the beginning of every season!  My mom would start prepping me sometime in May in hopes of avoiding the drama that ensued in June.

While everyone was running around trying to get me to remember all that I had learned the previous summer, the only person I wanted to please was my swim teacher; Jennifer.  I saw the look in her eyes.  She knew me.  She remembered what I went through each summer.  She never forgot.  I couldn’t avoid the knowing that she possessed.  As an educator we often work to get children to do things not for others, but for themselves.  For the pure intrinsic motivation of it all.  But, each summer as I stood at the side of that tremendously huge swimming pool (well, it seemed huge, anyway) I jumped in and I dove in and I went underwater not for myself.  I did it all for Jennifer.  I did not want to let that person down.  The one who trusted and believed in me so much.  Sure, eventually I just did it.  But, in the beginning, I conquered my fears for Jennifer.

I learned more than just how to swim over those summers of my youth.  I learned about myself and I learned about other people.  I learned about the positive influence that one person could have upon another.  Thanks, Jennifer.

Big, big hit.

15 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. As badly as we want students to do things solely for themselves, so often it’s okay if it starts out being about the teacher, just like with swimming for you. Once you conquered your fear (phobia?) then you could move on to whatever you aspired to do, all because you wanted to please Jennifer. That is my hope anyway. My students work hard for me. They do not want to let me down. I want them to work hard to discover that THEY can do it. If the end result is the same, I am okay with them starting out doing things for me. My “prayer” if you will is that all kids and adults have someone in their lives that drives them to make a start so they will finish strong on their own.

  2. I love this post! The thread of activities, the repetition of “Flop” or “Big, big hit.” and the way you incorporate the lessons you learned along the way. It interesting that while you did master some of the overt objectives (the flute, swimming) the ones that seem more important were the secondary ones – the drive to compete for what you want, to keep working despite your fears. I’m guessing those were the take-aways from looking back on those experiences.

    “I couldn’t avoid the knowing that she possessed.” I LOVE this line! It speaks to everything I long to be as a teacher! Possess the knowing about my kiddos!

    Thanks so much for sharing today!

  3. I am so glad you referred to your mom as one of your teachers. You are so right. We spend all of our time trying to get the students to believe in themselves and take risks with their knowledge, but in the end, many just want to please.

  4. Love your craft! One word sentences mixed with long. Repeating words. And I love the thread of how you wove the important adults through the piece. It served to remind me that you were a child and that love and caring are so, so important.

  5. Love the line children can be ours even if we didn’t have a hand in bringing them into the world. I can so picture you writing this when reading the part about Linda V. It made me laugh.

  6. “By high school I was competing with Linda V. for 1st chair. I don’t remember many of the kids from my high school, but Linda V. was my nemesis.” This is my favorite part of this really great piece. It’s funny and I know you said you were going to try more humor in your earlier posts. That and the parallel to jumping in for Jennifer, the swim teacher really round out your feelings towards learning lessons. Nicely done!

  7. You are right about saying you swam to please your teacher. That’s because she had compassion and made you feel important. Wouldn’t it be great if all teachers had those qualities??

  8. Great slice, Carrie! I love the repetition, and the very short, but effective, “Thanks, ….. to your favorite teachers. I can totally relate to your memory of Linda V., written with wry humor. Love it.

  9. Great Slice Carrie! It is such a wonderful feeling when a child transitions from being “cheered for” to making their own “cheer”-it’s an instantaneous game changer. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

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