Lessons Learned from the Open Road

This past week I just accepted another summer term position with our provincial car insurance company to travel around Manitoba presenting public education presentations.  As part of a team of 6 people I get to go to all corners of Manitoba to speak to children, teens and adults about road safety related topics. Yes, you read correctly, I get to teach people all about the importance of  following road rules, wearing seatbelts and the dangers of drinking and driving!

The first year I accepted the position I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to go into education or if I really wanted to be a teacher. But by the end of the four months of travelling throughout my beautiful home province my fate was sealed and I decided education was the thing for me.

This will be my fourth year in the program and as I look forward to starting yet another exciting summer I can’t help but think back on what this job has taught me. Many of the lessons I learned that first summer and the two since then have continued to stick with me both professionally and personally.

So here goes a short list of some of the things I have gleaned from my time as road safety public educator:

  • When speaking to a room full of 300 elementary students, keep your presentations short and snappy. The kindergarten kids will be a good indication of how well you are doing!
  • During question time, the two front rows are a danger zone of stories pretending to be questions which usually start with “This one time…”
  • People of ALL ages love to stop by and tell you stories, take the time to listen.
Cycles. Riquewihr, Alsace (Mirari Erdoiza) / CC BY-NC 3.0
  • Despite not knowing how to ride their bike, kids will take off their training wheels the day before you visit, just so they can look like everyone else! Be gentle with them and remind them that like many things in life, riding a bike takes practice!
  • You will be randomly hugged by small children.
  • A smile is the best ice breaker for almost any situation.
  • Make your behavioural expectations clear from the start. It makes life easier for you and your students.
  • Be kind and courteous to everyone you meet along the way, they will remember you the next time you visit their area although you may have forgotten them!
  • Every school works differently, tread lightly and be flexible in your approach but remember if you are asked to do the impossible you are in no way obliged to do so, but you can always offer an alternative.
  • Communication missteps happen! Be prepared for things to be misunderstood or ignored but have faith that it will all work out in the end.
  • At some points in life you have to be loud and make yourself heard!
  • Safety is a mindset and a habit that everyone can learn.
  • As a young woman, you will always be asked if you need help backing up your huge truck and trailer. Kindness is endemic in Manitoba and there is nothing wrong with offering or asking for help when it is needed!
  • People will stare at you when you drive in with a big truck and trailer into a fairground. Smile and try not to look too mortified!
  • You won’t convince everyone that wearing a seat belt,  a helmet or that not drinking and driving is a good idea. People will challenge you until the bitter end all you can do is present the facts and statistics and move on.
  • There is no better feeling in seeing little light bulbs go off in children’s head as they realize what you are saying makes sense!
  • Manitoba is an amazing place to live and the summer is one of the best seasons to take the time and venture out beyond the borders of Winnipeg.
Life lessons come in many shapes and forms and I have many things to do before I start my favorite summer job but I know all the lessons I have learned from previous years will surely be used in the months and years to come. I can’t wait to share the gems I have found along the way with the new group of students starting in May. Hopefully they too find as many life lessons and as much joy as I have in my travels.
*Remember to always wear your seat belt, they truly do save lives*
If you want more information about the program I work for check out: