My name is Paulina Šalkauskaitė and I'm from Kaunas, Lithuania. I'm currently a sophomore in Kaunas Jonas Jablonskis Gymnasium, and my interests include (but are not limited to) debates, science, vocals and entrepreneurship.
Teaching is something I have pictured myself doing since primary school, back when the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” did not mean much. And I would answer, oh so proudly, “I want to be a teacher”. I didn’t know it then, but it would become a large part of my life wherever I go.
This year, I had the opportunity to coach my school's debate club and see firsthand what it's like to be more than just a teacher, but also a role model. As I like to jokingly say, a mom of 20 - their diligent constructive critic, their strongest cheerleader, and most importantly, someone these 20 kids could rely on when they needed someone to listen. There is a lot to give when it comes to a group this size, however, I felt it gave me a lot of purpose. I found a significant amount of joy in bringing snacks to tournaments and my kids found a significant amount of joy in eating them.
As I worked with them for a few months, I saw the positive benefits of this bond on both a personal and professional level. My "kids" sat long after the activity had ended to discuss personal development, overcoming public speaking fears, gaining confidence, and planning on how to improve. The club helped them find their own voice, just as it helped me find mine - a voice that could aid and/or guide my students toward their goals. I found a place where I felt needed and could contribute everything I have ever learnt through the years. The spirit of debate translated into a sense of community for all of us - from people who had only recently joined, to my teammates who routinely judge the activity - everyone comes into the club with something to contribute and something to take away.