The 1 Thing University Did Not Teach Me Is What I Needed The Most

Getting a university education is not for everyone.  For many, it is considered that college is the best way to ensure highest earning potential.  For others, they believe there are better ways to accomplish same.

University taught me so many things.  These lessons have provided a foundation for a great career. However, it was not in the planned path.

The lessons learned in school included but not limited to both an academic and self-development foundation.

On the academic side, I gained skills around the following:  

  • Understanding evaluation criteria.
  • Communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Presentation skills.
  • Lesson planning.
  • The world of movement science.
  • The world of teaching methodology.
  • Social sciences like philosophy and psychology.
  • The role of formal education in our society.
  • Research methods.
  • Statistical analysis.

On the self-development side:

  • Time management.
  • Prioritization of tasks.
  • Self confidence.
  • Getting out of my comfort zone.
  • Listening.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Living independently.
  • Being functional with sleep deprivation!

There is so much more.

But there is 1 thing that university did not teach me, something I needed the most.

How to make a living with the education that has received.

University prepares us for many things, but for many, earning an income is not one of them. 

Can a university degree make it easier to get a job?

Maybe. 

A teaching degree in Physical Education should always be in need, yes?

Students will always be in need of daily movement, yes?

Much to my surprise, the people in power determining curriculum did not agree.

For 8 years, post university, I taught in various school boards around Montreal.  I started as a supply teacher part time as I finished my thesis.  That got me my first full time job in an K-6 school. 3 schools actually, dividing my time teaching PE in 3 small communities. 

I loved being a gym teacher. 

After 2 years, I ran into my first roadblock. Gym time cutbacks meant less gym teachers. 

I found an opening back in Montreal at Dawson College and joined the PE department there in 1993.

The experience at the collegiate level was very different than teaching younger ages, but equally powerful. Young adults (17 and over) were preparing for university and/or a trade. They had to take a gym class every semester as part of their core course load. They got to choose from classes like stress management, team sports, individual sports, martial arts, outdoor ed like hiking and mountain biking.

1 of the classes I taught was outdoor education for students with disabilities.  We had students up in the Laurentian mountains, north of Montreal, camping, canoeing, hiking and sleeping under the stars. For young adults, some of them had never been out of the city. 

It was life changing for all involved.

Cutbacks put an end to that. Very quickly students had less gym class requirements.  No longer compulsory.  The staff was cut by 50% from 34 to 17.   

In my 8 years of teaching, I always had year to year contract. I would be unemployed in the spring and sometimes renewed in the fall, and often had to find a new position.   My wife and I just moved into our first house,  I felt at a crossroads.  How long do I keep bouncing around?  

It was the spring of 1995 and I made the leap to 100% commission sales position, selling exercise equipment to gyms and fitness centers.  I have never looked back.

It opened a ton of doors for me, and I have been blessed with 25 years of unique experiences and satisfying work.

A lot of financial and professional ups and downs and lessons along the way.

When leaving university, it never occurred to me I would struggle to find an appropriate income.  The art of making a living while making a life is a skill that can be learned and taught. 

I wish that in addition to the academic and self-development lessons I learned, there were also financial ones.   How to maximize earning potential and how to promote your skill set in the wake of what the market needs and where revenue is streaming. 

Now that I think of it, should that not be standard in any academic or technical education stream?

I certainly learned the skills of perseverance and preparation in university, and those served me well adjusting my professional course after 8 years in the field, and 5 years of training. 

However, those adjustments might have been a little less painful with a career management course or 2.   Starting from scratch at 30 years old, was a risky move and many thought I was nuts.

Certainly, I feel very qualified to build that curriculum out now for those in a discipline where the traditional demand does not always equal opportunity.

Students still need to move daily in order to be at their best. However, in 2020 they are still not getting daily gym class. Far from it.   Sitting and screen time is taking over more and more.

Broadcasters are being created everyday with the growth of podcasts, have the learning institutions offering broadcasting adjusted?  I hope so.

All disciplines need to have keyboard skills, have the learning institutions adjusted? I hope so.

Tons of personal trainers and fitness professionals are struggling to make a living.  Have the accreditation groups adjusted to include career management in their curriculums? I hope so.

Devil’s advocates could say that the skill developed in school is what led me to have the confidence to adjust careers as I evolved in my professional life.

There might be a better way we can pass on to the next ones.

I think some more formal guidance in this area could have saved a ton of time on the roller coaster of making a living!

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