(Article originally written in 2000; edited in 2015)
Photo: Appeared in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in 2001 in a feature about my aquatic kickboxing class – which was my first aqua class. How about that outfit? This was when I shopped for clothes in the “International Male” catalog.
The daily trek to the mailbox was getting on my nerves. Given the very real possibility that I may have failed the exam, I now regretted opening my big mouth and telling my students I was taking the aquatic fitness certification. Naturally, they all wanted to know how I did on the test. “They will be mailing my results in six weeks,” I replied - hoping they’d forget about it.
My over-confidence before the exam contributed to this current predicament. Already certified in other fitness formats, I assumed I had plenty of knowledge and therefore I scoffed at the recommendations for exam preparation. Now, “Mr. Confidence” was silently rehearsing a face-saving explanation in case he tanked the exam.
My preparation for the certification was no doubt influenced by my college approach to exams. In other words, why worry about studying ahead of time when you’ve got the whole night before the exam to do it. Two days before the certification, I staged a big production of sitting down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, a notebook, pencil, highlighter, and all the certification study materials. Five minutes later, I was head bobbing and wanted to lie down and take a nap.
Sip tea. Stare out the window. Sip tea. Stare at the wall. Forcing myself to concentrate, I skimmed through the manual and became increasingly alarmed by topics such as Newton’s Law of Inertia and Archimedes’ Principle. Cutting to the chase, I decided to try the sample exam. I missed 8 out of the 10 questions and thought, “Ok Mark, NOW would be a good time to start studying.” Short on time, I decided to study everything in bold typeface, assuming the bold highlighting would be indicative of the questions on the exam. We all know what happens when you “ass-ume” something.
The certification exam review was scheduled at 7:30am, which is perfect for morning people, but not so perfect for people like me. Fortunately, the AEA Trainer kept a quick pace and stayed right on course during the review. However, every workshop has at least one participant who feels the need to ask the presenter a question on everything they say. The trainer was much more patient with this person and their questions than I was. By the afternoon, my loud sighs must have created a subversive movement because everyone rolled their eyes and nudged each other every time the ‘inquisitor’ raised a hand. When the review was over and it was time for any last questions, the ‘inquisitor’ knew enough to keep her mouth shut. The mood of the room was clear – PUT THE DAMN TEST DOWN.
Shortly after starting the exam, I knew I was in trouble and thought to myself, “Sheesh, could they make these questions any trickier?” Halfway into the exam, alarm bells were going off in my head as I started skipping over several questions. My grand scheme was to come back to these questions when I got a sudden burst of clarity. By the end of the exam and clarity nowhere in sight, I opted for nursery rhymes to answer the remaining questions.
Returning home from the exam, I pored over the manual in search of the questions I had answered with an “eeny meeny miney mo_.” _Sure enough, the manual contained all the answers – right there in black and white. I was just ticked because they weren’t highlighted in bold.
Fortunately, my mailbox vigil ended with good news. I passed! Great news indeed, but the real reward from taking the certification was the enhanced knowledge I received in the exam review. The ability to explain movements and their specific effect in water gave me much more credibility as an aquatic fitness instructor. I’m thrilled to be a certified aquatic instructor, love my class and I am excited to have a whole new frontier to explore.