I don’t believe in letting dreams die without a fight. I have dreamed, since the age of eight, of being a marine biologist. My current job of teaching college reading and directing a tutoring center is somewhat different from that childhood dream. Doing what I do now is a dream that developed in adulthood, but I have never given up on that dream of helping others love marine life the way I do.
One day in early October I was just getting ready to leave my office in anticipation of fall break. I thought it wise to give my e-mail one last glance and make sure I had tied up all loose ends. What I discovered was a surprise and would turn out to be a highlight of my life. In my inbox was an e-mail from a former student, Courtney. She had been in my College Reading class in the fall of 2008. She shared with me that she was currently completing her student teaching in a 5th grade class at a school in Morganton. Her students most enjoyed any class activity about the ocean, marine life and sharks in particular.
When Courtney was in my College Reading class I had developed a curriculum which centered on two contemporary novels involving sharks as well as took a group of students from the reading courses to Aurora, North Carolina to a marine fossil bed where we put on our hard hats, steel-toed boots and commenced to fossil hunt for giant shark teeth. That’s a blog for another day!
Courtney, in reflecting on her experience in the College Reading class, had the idea to ask me to come to her fifth grade class to give a presentation on sharks. I am no marine biologist even though that was a life long dream and constituted my earlier pursuits in college at UNC-Wilmington many years ago. I have to admit, I was elated! I was getting the opportunity to talk to a captive group about something that has long captured my imagination – sharks! As you can imagine, my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”
Immediately following fall break I prepared a presentation, complete with fossil identification activities, scary pictures of giant sharks and a library of books suited for any fifth grader giving thought to being a marine biologist. I cannot begin to describe how excited I was on Thursday morning as I made my way down the mountain and to the small, rural elementary school near Morganton. When I arrived I was met with two classes of fifth graders, 34 all total. They were bright eyed and eager. For two hours we talked about nothing but megalodon sharks, fossil shark teeth, the deep ocean trenches and numerous other marine related topics.
I left the classroom and the school exhilarated and exhausted. I was more convinced than ever that I was doing what I was meant to do – teach college students! Those fifth graders just about did me in. They asked questions, and more questions and came up with their own theories and ideas about why megalodon sharks do not exist today.
I left those 34 bright faces feeling a deep sense of hope in education, in children and in the future altogether. I came back to my own students with a renewed sense of purpose as an educator, a deeper appreciation for teachers in all grades and ages, and most importantly with a heart of gratitude to Courtney, my own student, who gave me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and be, if for only two hours, a marine biologist!