My students have the fortune of getting to go to the middle school for two weeks every year for swimming lessons. The program is really great and, while it takes up a LOT of instructional time (I know, I'm a nerd), it gives the students a valuable life skill and an extra outlet for their energy. It also teaches some of my less sports-inclined students that there are other options for physical activity and motivates them to get moving.
Here's the catch: Swimming time forces you to practice what you preach. That is, if you feel like it's important to do so.
On Fridays the students are granted Free Swim. It is on these two days that the teacher is invited to come swim with the students. Last week I was not feeling well for a variety of reasons that impeded my ability to swim comfortably so I opted out. Today, however, it was put up or shut up time. My students were practically begging me to join them, so of course I used it to my benefit and offered it up as incentive but the real reason I jumped in that pool today?...
Swimming is scary for 5th graders, especially 5th grade girls. You have to take off all of your clothes in a locker room with a group of people who are invariably judging you in order to feel better about themselves or judging themselves against you. Then, you have walk out of the locker rooms wearing barely anything only to meet your classmates of the opposite sex and become painfully aware that you have very different parts and that nobody has any interest in demonstrating that so obviously.
Well heck, I'm 26 years old and I have no interest in displaying my body. Not only do I not want to do this in front of people my own age, but I definitely don't want to do it in front of a group of students who certainly might have something unflattering to say about it. But there are two things that I have tried to make apparent to my students over the course of our time together. 1) I feel like it is really important to be healthy. (We have had many conversations about this, including when we had our picnic lunch and I brought fruit and vegetables and they brought giant bags of chips and didn't understand when I did not partake.) and 2) I LOVE to swim! Based on those two very fundamental concepts, there is no reason in the world that I shouldn't have been in that pool having fun with some of my favorite people.
You see, I was a little bit nervous to be so far out of my comfort zone. But if I don't push myself and act darn confident about it, I'm teaching my students that there's something to be ashamed of and that confidence is not warranted in this situation. Most importantly, I don't want my students to ever look around and realize that they are holding themselves back from life because they are afraid or uncomfortable. I have a feeling that they would miss out on a lot of great opportunities if I taught them that it is ok to let something/someone get in the way.