My name is Brenda, and I am a retired Physical Education teacher. I have taught for 34 years – the last 22 years in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. I want to share my thoughts on The National First Tee School Program and how this program changed my students and me.
The First Tee National School Program was introduced to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools about 15 years ago. The NSP wanted to pilot The First Tee School Program in 10 schools. They asked for schools to volunteer to pilot the program. Initially, I saw this as an opportunity to teach golf skills to my students, so I volunteered to get the program at my school. Most of my students (Kindergarten – Fifth Graders) had little to no knowledge or experience with the skills and the game of golf. Although I received training with how to teach this program, there was definitely a learning curve for me. I was learning the sequence and cues for the skills of putting, chipping, pitching, and full swing. I was also learning how to set up the stations so that it would maximize student learning. I noticed that my students were excited and curious about learning new skills through the game of golf. Students became less competitive and began to help and assist each other with the sequence and cues for each of the skills because everyone was learning something new. This was my 1st “Wow” moment. I then realized that The First Tee School Program was more than just teaching the skills of the game, but also the skills and the core values of life. I began to teach The First Tee School Program at the beginning of each school year because it encompassed every core value that would be used for the rest of the school year. Skills like respecting each other/their environment and equipment, showing courtesy to all, being responsible while at home and school, persevering even through tough times, using good judgment and making good choices, and being honest and truthful. Students explored what those core values looked like in school, at home, and on the golf course.
As I reflected on how to grow a better experience for my students, I contacted The First Tee of Charlotte at Revolution Park. With their help, we planned field trips to Revolution Park for our students to apply the golf skills they had learned during Physical Education class while on a real golf course. During the first field trip to Revolution Park, I noticed three of my 5th grade girls lying on the grass. I was so pumped about my students having the experience of applying their golf skills and I didn’t understand why they were lying on the grass. I walked over and asked what they were doing and they asked me, “Coach, how do they get the grass so green and short? It feels so wonderful!” Those girls were rolling on the grass!!! Lesson learned on my part – This was my 2nd “Wow” moment. I realized this was the first time many of my students had ever seen a golf course. I had been using golf terminology during PE class such as putting green, fairway, rough, and sand trap. My students couldn’t visualize those concepts because they had no prior experience being on a golf course. This made for a great teaching moment with those girls and the rest of my class – we talked about who takes care of the golf course (that is a job within itself!), how much time and care goes into getting the grass green, short, and wonderful.
To all of the folks who volunteer for the school field trips, “Thank You!” Thank you for your time, your wisdom, and your leadership working with our children. Thank you for providing a meaningful experience for our children!
The ultimate reward for a PE teacher is to see kids choosing to be active using skills they have learned in your class. One student I taught, Tyler who is a 5th grader, asked his Mom if he could enroll in golf lessons. After one lesson, the golf pro said Tyler had the best grip, stance, and swing of anyone in the class. His Mom replied, “That’s because Coach has taught Tyler, The First Tee Golf Program!” This was my 3rd “Wow” moment! How rewarding to see my students getting “hooked” on golf!
After retiring from teaching and education, I continue to volunteer for the school field trips. I find it rewarding to see their smiles when they are successful, to hear them encourage each other, and to see them having fun while being active. But most of all it is fun just to watch kids have their own “Wow” moments!
To learn more about The First Tee National School Program, click here