Like many people, I was first exposed to canoeing as a child at summer camp. I learned one stroke – forward. What else does a paddler need to know, right? It was fun, but nothing I was motivated to continue to do. Then when I was around fifty, I bought a Grumman at a garage sale and began to paddle again. Of course I used the skills I had learned forty years before, zig-zagging down the river, wielding my paddle as if it were a war club.
Then I joined a club. I joined it primarily for the car shift, but as I paddled with the other canoeists, I saw the elegant things that they could do with their canoes and compared them to my own sorry skills, and decided that I wanted to be like them. So I took some lessons and began to develop my skills. I found that the more skilled I became, the more I enjoyed the sport, and a whole new passion was born.
A couple of years later, a friend approached me and suggested that I become a canoe instructor. My initial response was that I didn’t want to do that. I had never had a desire to be a teacher and I intensely dislike public speaking. But he was pretty persuasive and I did feel that I owed our sport a little give-back for all the instruction and coaching I had received, so I decided to give it a try. I went through the certification process with a couple of friends and became certified. As I began to teach classes, a funny thing happened: I loved it.
In my students I saw earlier versions of myself. Some of them were struggling with the same concepts that I had struggled with, many of them had to break the same bad habits that I had been plagued with, and like me, most of them were so unskilled that they didn’t know how much they didn’t know. During the course of the class, I could see them gain skill and confidence. I was with them as they experienced their “Ah hah” moments, I shared their joy as they nailed an eddy turn that they had been trying all day to do. And all the time, I continued to build my paddling and teaching skills through my interaction with my students.
There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing the light bulb go on over a student’s head. I take immense pride in seeing an unskilled paddler become a skilled, efficient, graceful paddler. Some eventually become instructors and a few exceed the people who taught them along the way. I have been teaching for ten years, and these are just a few of the reasons why I continue to teach. I thoroughly enjoy teaching, and I would have missed it all if I had not taken the challenge.
Is it right for everybody? Probably not. But if I had followed my initial inclination, I would have missed out on the many personal rewards I have found in teaching paddling skills to others. I am so glad that I gave this a try.
Is it right for you? There’s one sure way to find out.