By: Kelly McPeak
What an amazing adventure! After over 30 years of working with children of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, I’ve learned something every day in the most unexpected ways! Every child, parent, sibling, grandparent, guardian, caregiver, coworker…I am fortunate enough to encounter has taught me something.
Of course, I can’t just teach gymnastics. I have to teach colors, letters, numbers, opposites, shapes… When I held up a triangle and asked Hunter “What shape is this?” He said “Pizza.” Was that the answer I was looking for? Of course not, but the lesson immediately changed course. I said “Pizza, you’re right! What is your favorite kind of pizza?” He replied “Pepperoni!” I said “Yummy, did you know that a piece of pepperoni pizza comes in the shape of a triangle?” Most recently I was teaching a group of 4 and 5 year olds log/pencil rolls down and incline mat. Instead of lying flat on their belly, one student climbed up on their knees, hunched over into a ball, and rolled sideways down. All of the kids thought it looked fun, so everyone tried it and loved it! I asked them, “What should we call this new roll?” They replied “It looks like an Egg Roll.” Instantly the “Egg Roll” was born.
For over 15 years I struggled to teach the Front Support (pictured below) with straight arms on bars. Without fail about 70% – 80% could not achieve straight arms. When I gave instructions, I thought I tried every variation. “Keep your arms straight”, “Straight Elbows”, “Don’t bend your arms”…you get the idea. Sometimes they let go of the bar and hung by their belly…I got almost as many different attempts at “Straight Arms” as my attempts to correct them. My first employee with NO gymnastics experience, in her first week taught ME how by saying, “Strong Arms”. BAM! Two simple words I never said and 95% of the students get it on the FIRST try!!
These are just a couple of the hundreds, maybe thousands of things I have learned from my students, co-workers, employees, parents… As a teacher I try to reach every student and help them to reach their maximum potential, not just as a gymnast, but as a person. This means I must know them as a person. I must listen to them. I must value their input. After all, no matter the subject or activity we teach, shouldn’t every student leave our care with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and value for who they are, and what they have to offer?