“I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” ~ Mark Twain
I’m a horrible student, but I’m a pretty active learner. I wouldn’t say quick learner. More like a I’ll-come-around-to-it-in-my-own-time learner. But I’m open minded, I have a good imagination and I don’t mind busting through the boundaries of the proverbial box. These are all things I came to appreciate about myself as I grew. These were not things that were particularly appreciated while I was in school.
I probably started making school year resolutions when I was in 4th grade. It was the year I laid down a set of expectations that I would rekindle every year until I finished my first round of college. How old was I in 4th grade? 10 years old? Either I was a genius for being so reflective at a young age or an idiot for continually following the desires of a 10 year old. Or maybe what we all want in life is simple enough that a child can articulate it. I kept the list simple:
Goal 1: I will do my school work. I had good intentions of being like the kids in the ABC Afterschool Specials. I would sit at the kitchen table after school, with a snack freshly made by my mom, and finish my homework before dinner.
Reality 1: My homework was always done on the bus or in the hallway before class. And forget about getting it done in class. I don’t know what I was doing in class, but it wasn’t my classwork. I was the “not working up to potential” kid.
Goal 2: Make more friends.
Reality 2: This resolution had limited success. I did have friends and a wide variety of friends, but I would have had better friendships if I were kinder. My house was a sad place to grow up and that created an angry child. I could be cruel. But not in a Queen Bee way. I wasn’t Benny Hanson or Caroline Mulford. I didn’t have the social status for that. I was more like Molly Ringwald‘s hostile sidekicks — minus the smoking and cursing.
Goal 3: Be cute – dress fashionably, comb hair.
Reality 3: I started out as a tomboy, transitioned into awkward and went straight into chubby. Nothing says that you can’t be cute at any of those stages, but for the most part, I was not. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. And I didn’t really have anybody to tell me that I shouldn’t be.
I carried around these resolutions from year to year to year to year — probably right up to grad school. [OK, so it really was up until grad school.] Now that I work for a school system, I still have the same old “This year I’m going to…” notions popping up in my head. I’ll ignore the Mean Girl Teachers (oh yes, they exist!). I’ll get my reports done on time. I’ll get up early enough to put on make-up. And this is after several years and thousands of dollars of therapy. I’m not so hard on myself anymore though. And I try to tell the kids that I work with not to be so hard on themselves and each other. It’s not easy to convince a 12 year old that you know what you are talking about. They can’t see outside of their heads, outside of their situations. Life will get better, I tell them. You are not and do not have to be pigeonholed into a stereotype. I tell them that my favorite quote is “Be good. Be glad. Be brave.” They wrinkle their noses at me and furrow their brows. I keep going… Be good: Do what you need to do, because believe it or not, life is easier that way. Be glad: There is just as much good in the world as bad. Focus on the good. Be brave: Dare to imagine yourself as great. Dare to be nice. Through bravery you will find integrity. And if you don’t remember your math equations, then remember this. This is your education.