My first day of volunteering with Peer Health Exchange did not go as I had planned. Then again, no one can quite predict how ninth grade health classes will go. I remember how hard of a time my ninth grade friends and I gave our sex-ed teacher Mindy. I’m pretty sure she didn’t appreciate the jelly beans flying across the room.
I stepped out of the car with my PHE shirt on and my white binder in hand. Even though I wasn’t teaching the class, I was still nervous, and not being able to find the entrance to the school did nothing to calm my nerves. When I finally stepped into the courtyard of the school, I knew I was in trouble when a loud bell rang across campus. Swarms of students funneled out of the various classrooms spread out around the school. I went to a very small high school, so the mass of kids in uniforms and backpacks felt foreign to me. I must have looked incredibly ridiculous because a student pulled me aside and showed me which classroom the PHE workshop was being held in.
Even though my hands were clammy due to my nerves, as soon as I stepped into the classroom, I was completely fine. It felt natural for me to be in front of students, ready to give them the mental tools to make healthy decisions about sex and alcohol. All of those hours as a child that I spent pretending to teach my invisible students random things or pretending to be Rachael Ray demonstrating how to make a 30 minute meal in my toy kitchen seemed to have prepared me for this day. I was supposed to be there as an observer, but I couldn’t just sit in the back and watch. I had to jump up and interact with the students, keep them on track, answer their questions, and break up bickering. I seamlessly incorporated all of the skills that we were taught during our retreat, and weaving in and out of desks to strategically get kids to pay attention felt so natural. I even handled the comments about how I don’t look like a college student and more of a high school student pretty well, if I do say so myself!
Coming out of that classroom, I felt different. Helping out in the workshop gave me a taste of what it means to be a Peer Health Educator, and I wanted more. After that day, I was excited to be back in the classroom making a change in teenagers’ lives one workshop at a time. So even though it wasn’t exactly what I had pictured, I would say my first day as a health educator went much better than I had planned.