when i was 15, i got a job at a swimming pool in a rich neighborhood. the owner knew my dad, a former swim coach, and she basically just gave me the job. i was certified but wasn’t really ready for the responsibility of being a lifeguard. i could blow a whistle at running kids, but it made me nervous to even think about having to jump in to save someone.
one night, there was a party. we moved everyone to the sand volleyball area where there were picnic tables for the cake and ice cream. my boss told me to do a once over in the pool area just in case. and it’s a good thing i did. as i walked up to the pool and scanned it, i noticed movement in the middle of the pool.
someone was drowning.
i immediately jumped in and grabbed the little girl. panicked, she crawled up my body for precious air. little as she was, she pushed my head under for a second. surprised, i swallowed some water and started coughing it up. it took a few seconds for me to realize what had happened and act. i pushed her off of me and then grabbed her from behind. i held her close to me so that she couldn’t really move and swam to the shallow end. she was crying by then. i turned her in my arms, held her and told her she was okay.
thank god, we walked out of that pool together. but i realized later that i had to push her away from me to save myself first before i could think to save her. i didn’t lifeguard again after that summer. it was too stressful after what happened with that little girl.
but i learned some lessons from that event. there are times when you are teaching (or in life in general) when you will need to push a student or other teacher away from you emotionally so that you can get yourself right. once you get your head on straight, you can go back and try again. it doesn’t mean that you’re giving up. it just means you’re retreating to come back with a better and safer plan.