Yesterday I was a guest fitness expert at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School’s career day, in Anacostia, Washington, D.C. Although I had been looking forward to the visit for over a month, I went to bed the night before still at a loss as to how to inspire 1st and 5th graders. Fortunately, I woke the next morning full of inspiration, and began running around the house collecting props of all the fitness and outdoor gear I could carry.
My plan worked like a charm with the 5th graders, who politely competed to answer my fitness IQ questions in order to stand up in front of the class to demonstrate different types of fitness. The students took on the role of trainer by encouraging and holding each other accountable and felt the pain of performing squats and bicep curls and wearing technical gear like rock climbing harnesses and snowboarding goggles.
I quickly learned that my original plan was a bust with the 1st graders and if I had a chance of holding their precious attention I’d better alter my course by forming as much group participation as possible. We found some open space and practiced counting skills as we did jumping jacks, sit-ups, and balanced on one leg. But perhaps the most profound moment occurred when we sat close together on the floor and they entered an almost trance-like state of attention during a focused breathing exercise. I looked into their innocent, big brown eyes and found myself telling them what a precious gift their bodies are, that if they take good care of their own bodies they will be able to perform wonderful acts of service for others and accomplish anything.
They say that when the student is ready the teacher appears. That morning, as the inquisitive students of this underprivileged elementary school marveled at my Utah green eyes and blond hair, and I in turn reveled in their warm hearted acceptance of me and my message, it became clear who the real student was, and what an opportunity I had just been given.