I was taken back to an early moment in my teaching days this week when we started our badminton unit in Phys Ed – a moment in time that turned out to be somewhat pivotal for me.
Teacher’s college was a nice safe environment where we discussed philosophy of education, literacy and how we were going to make a difference in the classroom. Finally the day arrived for me to leave the safe confines of the nest and try my teaching wings out in a grade 7&8 classroom.
I arrived in the school parking lot and put my car in park. My mind was racing as I unfastened my seatbelt and took the keys out of the ignition. For some reason all of the teaching block horror stories that swirled around in teacher’s college started flooding my mind. I tried to banish those thoughts as I used the rear-view mirror to see if my tie was straight.
Before I knew it I was in front of the class introducing myself. I wondered if the students were able to hear the thudding of my heart. My mouth quickly became as dry as the Sahara and swallowing became a distant memory.
Becoming a teacher involves a slight leap of faith. There are always questions that float around in your head while in teacher’s college. What if I am a horrible teacher? What if I can’t control the class? What if they don’t learn anything?
These questions seemed to be amplified on that first day. The giant of fear was looming large.
After the first class, the grade school was called to an assembly in the gym. One of Canada’s Olympic women badminton players was visiting the school. She was going to talk to the students about the sport and give a demonstration of her skills. After filling us in on the rules, techniques and strategies, she asked if one of the teachers would be willing to play against her.
Most of the teachers suddenly became intensely interested in the floorboards of the gym. I suddenly wished I had chameleon-like qualities in order to blend in with the crowd. Why did I decide to wear a pink tie?!
The Olympian sized up the crowd and tried to find her first victim. The blood drained from my face as she pointed her racquet at me as if it was a scepter. She asked if I would try my hand against her. My gulp was probably heard by everyone as I stepped forward to the court. All eyes were on the new guy. The pressure was on.
Time was frozen for a moment as I thought about what was happening. What am I doing here? I don’t belong here! I’m quiet and shy, and don’t like to be the centre of attention! What a huge mistake I’m making! I’m not cut out for this job. Maybe I should just run out of here, hop in my car and peel out of here!
I looked around and saw that all eyes were on me and the Olympian badminton player. I knew there was no chance. What a great first impression this would be! I’ll be the laughing stock of this school. I knew I couldn’t compete against her, and suddenly had a brief vision of me going to the hospital with a birdie embedded in my forehead.
She wound up and let the birdie fly. It came at me like a Polaris missile. By the time I feebly swung, the birdie had long landed between my feet. I expected boos, hisses and laughter, but applause and cheering resounded instead. I even heard some of the students shout ‘Go Mr. S!’
In the end I did manage to return a couple before the assembly ended. When I went back to where my new 7&8 class was seated, I was greeted with looks of admiration and encouragement. It was at that point that I knew I was at the right place and doing the right thing.
As I drove home that day, I marveled at the Lord’s goodness and grace. My giants of fear had been vanquished and I was humbled at how God had turned me from a shy, quiet introvert and had equipped me for this great calling.