What would you call a fish that loved being out of water? My first thought would be to say “a dead fish,” but that would ruin the point of this analogy. You see, I’m a guy in a major full of girls…and I LOVE it! The major, that is…not the…nevermind. Many people might consider a guy in a girl-dominated major a fish out of water (or maybe a shark on the hunt in a pond full of minnows…I guess it depends on how you look at it), but I feel right at home learning about how to teach elementary school kids. The truth is, though men are grossly outnumbered in the elementary school setting, they are still just as capable as women. They bring unique enthusiasm into the classroom, and they’re able to influence children in ways that women can’t. Positive male role models are a dying breed, and they are desperately needed in schools. But before I “amaze” the world with my revolutionary ideas about how to save the universe through education, I want to take the opportunity to first share a little bit about who I am and why I decided to pursue a degree in education, particularly at the elementary school level.
Unlike many education majors I know, my desire to become a teacher did not begin in my youth. In fact, it wasn’t until after I served a two year full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I even considered the idea. There were certainly many experiences throughout my life that influenced this decision, but it was my mission that made the greatest impact. There are so many things I loved about my mission, but the experiences I cherish most are the opportunities I had to teach people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and to witness the miraculous changes that this glorious message inspired them to make in their lives.
One of the most memorable of these experiences was with a man named Paul. When I first met Paul he was an atheist. But after a few months of teaching him about the wonders of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness, he developed a deep faith in God and a desire to pattern his life after the Savior’s. It was very special to see how much his life improved after he began living gospel principles in his life.
I also gleaned from my teaching experiences the fact that truly effective teaching is motivated by genuine love. My ability to reach into people’s hearts and minds was magnified when my efforts were driven by love and by a deep desire to serve them. In my last area on my mission, I taught the Tetro family. They are a sweet family of five, and I grew to love them so much. I wanted them to enjoy the same blessings and happiness with which the gospel of Jesus Christ filled my life. This love is what drove me to challenge them to accept baptism, which they did. A year later, I had the privilege of being with them in the Portland Temple as they were sealed together as a family for time and all eternity. I realized that my love for this wonderful family is in large part why they responded so positively to my instruction, and it inspired changes in their lives that will forever bless them.
When I returned home from my mission, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to continue having meaningful experiences with people through teaching. I have always loved children, so naturally I was drawn to the elementary school age group. As I’ve studied in this program at BYU, I have come to understand that this tender stage of life is the most crucial because it is a period during which children are most impressionable. Children need positive role models in their lives, and they need to be taught early in life that they have great potential. They need to be given the tools necessary to succeed not just in school but more importantly in life. This is what makes a complete education. I may not be a missionary teaching the gospel anymore, but I still have a deeply-rooted love for people, children in particular, that I can use to help them reach their potential.
So am I really a fish out of water? If I am, then I guess I’ll be the first one to learn how to thrive. I’ve never been one to blend in with the crowd anyways. Every pond needs variety, so I’m out to prove that sharks and minnows can learn to appreciate their differences and build upon each other’s strengths. After all, Dory and Bruce learned how to get along pretty well.