Keep Challenging

by Yoshihiro Kiyosawa

 

This is what I want to teach my students, and this is also a reminder for myself as a teacher.  Sports and exercises have been the key components that connect me with my students as a teacher of physical education. Especially sports are useful to teach the importance of the challenge.  I hope that students become able to appreciate the “changes” through a series of challenges they chose to make in their lives.

 

Ever since I was a junior high school student, I had a vague idea that I wanted to be a teacher in the future. Teachers are one of the closest images of adulthood for any junior high school student, and that was not an exception for me. At that time, as I 

had spent most of my life in school, it was quite natural for me to

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be attracted to teachers. Every time I was asked questions such as  “What do you want to be in the future?” “What is your dream?”, I began to think, “I want to be a teacher in the future”.

 

I started swimming in elementary school and enjoyed it so much that I devoted myself to it all through middle school and high school. I decided to go to a university where I could both prioritize swimming and a career in teaching. I was able to pursue my desired career path with great hope. However, when I was in my third year of college, my mind started to wander as becoming a teacher sounds more realistic. I repeatedly asked myself what I could teach, whether I could handle the job of a teacher and whether a teacher was what I wanted to be. I thought, “Let's take some time to reconsider it”. I decided to put myself in a different environment and went abroad. When I look back on the decision I made at that time, that was one of the biggest reasons I continue being a teacher now.

 

I turned my mind overseas because I was looking for a change. I thought I needed some space to get away from the daily routine that had been built around swimming. My first destination was Illinois in the United States. I went there with a certain degree of confidence in English because I did it well in junior high, high school, and college. However, to my surprise, I could not make myself understood in English nor understand what people say in English. I was so disappointed that I couldn't even shop at the supermarket. I couldn’t help but wonder what was the point of all the English lessons I had studied in school, and felt angry because I felt the test results and the grades on the report card were completely useless. I vividly remember the anger and embarrassment I felt. It was a complete disappointment for me but at the same time, that made me want to be able to speak more practical English.

 

What helped me in those times was swimming, which I had been passionate about since I was a child. Once you swim in the pool, it doesn't matter if you don't speak the language. Even if I didn't speak the language, swimming allowed me to make friends and learn English, and that opened up a whole new world to me. Swimming had long been a sport of competition for me, but it gave me a chance to bring new changes in me.

 

 “If you run after two hares you will catch neither” is a nice saying which means you won’t be successful if you aim at two things at the same time. You should concentrate on one thing at a time and do not be too greedy. However, what I recommend is the opposite. In the real world, you have to work on several things at the same time, and you need to be able to see things from multiple perspectives. In the rapidly changing society, you will be left behind if you can only manage one thing. It is an essential skill for people of the future generation to broaden the scope of interests at various things and keep challenging as they go on their journey. When I look back on my own life, I find people who are always willing to challenge themselves to be attractive, and I have been influenced a lot by such people.

 

I wish my students to be as greedy as “chasing two hares and not letting the third one go” or “going for birds in addition to the hares”. If you keep challenging yourself, it will bring many changes to you. What I  would like to teach my students through physical education is the importance of “not being afraid of change” and “enjoying the process of changes”.

Sometimes teachers tend to admonish students to work hard at one thing when they try out several different things. I have seen students giving up things they are interested in to narrow them down to one.  However, what is important is to think about how you can handle whatever you are interested in at the moment. I believe one of the teachers’ roles is to help students think of ways to satisfy students’ interests, not being trapped by the mindset of “If you run after two hares you will catch neither”.

 

When I was lost and had been in a moratorium during my college years, my decision to take on a challenge and go abroad brought about a big change in me. Not only sports but also music and art can be a means of non-verbal communication. When you jump into a different culture, you can bring changes in you if you have a ball, a song, or a pencil. You can share your feelings and inspirations even though you don't speak the language. Now, I find it very rewarding to be able to connect with people in other countries through sport.

It takes a lot of courage and determination to take on a new challenge. I would like to support my students’ back when they think of ways to make a big step forward for their changes in life.