Elementary school is a critical time in a child’s life. A student’s elementary learning experience largely impacts how she views education. It can either feed or break the desire to learn, leaving a lasting, life-long effect. Since the third grade, I have believed in cartwheels. Through them, I discovered joy in learning and a love for knowledge. It was then when I realized what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Dreams of being an artist, professional athlete, and an astronaut quietly dissolved as I felt a new calling on my life. In the third grade, I decided I wanted to be a third grade teacher myself. It sounded much more like a privilege than a job. I wanted to impact young students’ lives the way my teacher had impacted mine.
Like many kids, I loved my third grade teacher. I’ll never forget the steps of the water cycle, Virginia’s famous crops, or who Anansi is simply because she created jingles with hand motions and organized skits for us students to perform. Exciting classes were jam-packed with interesting information. Yet, the cherry on the sundae of my third grade year was her cartwheels. Whenever my class accumulated ten compliments from other adults on our good behavior, my teacher would do a cartwheel right in the middle of the room. She even kept a pair of shorts with her just in case she was wearing a skirt when we earned our reward. She didn’t hesitate to break out of her comfort zone to engage her young learners. I want a job where I can do cartwheels in front of twenty-five eight-year-olds.
More importantly, though, I remember idolizing my third grade teacher. Every word she spoke was a new revelation that I drank in. This was the foundation of my desire for learning and set the tone for the rest of my educational career. It is one thing to realize how important that year was for me; switching roles, however, is an entirely different experience, one that often fills me with nervous excitement. Knowing how influential and innocent children are in elementary school places a responsibility on me to become the best teacher I can for them. It encourages me to study harder and continue to grow and cultivate my desire to learn.
Education is a journey, one that I want to walk beside my students, not ahead of them. I want to share my knowledge, but also assure my students I am learning much from them as well. Yes, I believe in cartwheels. They have given me the unique opportunity to watch a child unwrap understanding and reach for more. Of course, passion and coordination don’t always go hand in hand, and given my track record of split jeans and twisted ankles, I should probably get practicing.
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