An Open Letter Of Gratitude To My High School

An Open Letter Of Gratitude To My High School

To some, going to an all-girls high school would seem like hell, to me it was the best four years of my life (so far).
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To my high school,

I feel like our relationship is very much like a parent and child relationship. Except, instead of having two parents, I had at least 36, but most definitely more. Throughout the four years I spent in your company, I loved and appreciated you, but also was a stubborn kid who wasn’t always a fan of the work and the rules and the parent’s guidance.

However, now that I have been away on my own for two years, my gratitude and sense of appreciation for everything you gave me has only grown and will continue to grow as I go throughout life.

The six classes a day that produced piles a homework were certainly not my favorite things in the moment. The stress was high and seemingly never-ending. But now, that I have five classes, most of which only meet twice a week but still produce the same amount of work, I know I can tackle these to-do lists of assignments because I already have four years of experience in my back pocket.

It is not just my time and stress management that grew, it was the academic work and the high expectations from high school classes that now provide me with confidence in the work I turn in to my professors today. Today when I am assigned a 7-10 page paper, I am not scared because I don't know where to start, instead, I receive the assignment knowing that while it may be a challenge and it will require time and energy, I have the skills and background necessary to do a good job on it.

However, strong work ethic and ability is not cultivated just because of the assignments a student hands in. The people who teach you how to do these assignments and do them well is what makes the difference. I am the scholar I am today because of the English teacher who taught me how to create an argument for a paper, and then after having me for two years pulled me aside in front of a group of my peers to tell me how much growth he had seen in me. To this day, whenever I get frustrated or unsure of my abilities, I think of this moment and it reminds me that I am good at what I am doing and I can get the work done.

The teachers I had, and even some who I didn’t, were constant cheerleaders for all of us at our school. The teacher from freshman year who always complimented me after working at open house events. The teacher who spent hours helping me work with another teacher to write a speech at the end of senior year. The teacher who selected me for a leadership position for a retreat.

These things, little things, really add up. Everyone who would smile, wave, and offer a greeting as we passed in the hallways. Knowing that I was in a place where I was supported, and encouraged made me want to go to school every day.

While there is the stereotype that four years of high school are the worst four years of a person’s life and once they graduate, and move on to the next thing in life they are filled with a sense of relief, I am glad this did not hold true for me. Conversely, when I received my diploma and realized at the end of the summer I would not be coming back to my high school, but would instead be moving across the country to begin college, I was filled with an immense sense of melancholy.

I knew that in some respects, the school had given me all that it could and that if I could have somehow found a way to sneak back for a fifth year, the experience would not be the same, however I don’t think I fully understood how much I would continue to learn from the school once I did arrive at college.

I have truly understood how much my school empowered me in so many different respects, but mainly to share my voice and be unafraid to pursue the things you most want and carry yourself with confidence, unafraid of what others may think.

The school also left a visible impression on me in the way I carry myself as well. On two separate occasions, once by the nurse at the doctor’s office, and the other by an admissions director who was familiar with the Seattle area who was on a college campus tour I was giving, I have been asked if I had gone to Holy Names with very little information given about my background. To be able to be recognized as an alumnus gives me so much pride and joy to have had the opportunity to go to this school and puts a spark within me to continue to give back to the school in whatever way possible in the future.

I do not think I will ever be able to properly articulate what my high school and my high school experience means to me. I am forever grateful and indebted to the teachers and friends who shaped me during my high school experience. I have had multiple conversations with my friends from high school in which we have contemplated where we would be today if it had not been for the education we received. I know I most definitely would not be at the college where I am today, pursuing the degree that I am, and having the internship I am.

My time in high school helped me find my passions and encouraged me to pursue them. I cannot wait to see what other impacts this school will have on me in the years to come, and I sincerely hope that one day I will be able to return and become a part of its day-to-day community once more in some other capacity.

From a very grateful alum,

C.M.

Cover Image Credit: Personal Photo

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A's are nice, but you are more than a letter.

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The idea of getting an A on every paper, every exam, every assignment, seems great. It can be known as a reassurance of our hard work and dedication to our 4+ classes we attend every single day.

Losing sleep, skipping meals, forgetting to drink water, skipping out on time with friends and family; these are the things that can occur when your letter of an A is what you are living for.

You are worth more than the grade letter, or the GPA number on your transcript.

Listen, don't get me wrong, getting A's and B's definitely is something to feel accomplished for. It is the approval that you did it, you completed your class, and your hard work paid off.

But honey, get some sleep.

Don't lose yourself, don't forget who you are. Grades are important, but the true measurement of self-worth and accomplishment is that you tried your best.

Trying your best, and working hard for your goals is something that is A-worthy.

Reserve time for yourself, for your sanity, your health, your mental health.

At the end of the day, grades might look nice on a piece of paper, but who you are and how you represent yourself can be even more honorable.

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My Future Career Is More Than A 'Glorified Babysitter' Position, Despite What You May Think

I am an education major and extremely proud of it.

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This is a topic that has been on my heart a lot this week. As an Education major, I've heard it all. "Do you know how much teachers make?" Yes. "You ACTUALLY like kids?!?" Yes, I LOVE them. "Why would you do that to yourself?" Because I love it. Because I love being an Education major, I've become extremely passionate about defending it. However, I'm getting tired of feeling like I have to.

This career choice is something that I'm proud of. I know that being a teacher means sacrificing several things. I know that it means sacrificing your financial security. I know that it means sacrificing your ability to not be constantly thinking about 30 other kiddos all of the time. I know that I'll be sacrificing my right to be selfish. If you think about it, everything that a teacher does is utterly selfless. They dedicate their entire college career and teaching career to make sure that YOU understand the material. They spend several chunks of their own money on their classroom to provide an environment that enhances your learning. It's selfless. And it takes a person who recognizes that fact to be a teacher.

Teaching also has many dimensions, that nobody actually thinks about. For example, the class description for one of my classes says that it "Focuses on multicultural and interdisciplinary literature appropriate for middle grades students; implements and evaluates effective multicultural, interdisciplinary instruction through selection, use and development of literature in middle grades classroom" (TAMU catalog). Within this class, I was required to authenticate texts (make sure that they're culturally appropriate), learn about how to build a culturally-diverse classroom library, and how to teach without microaggressions. And these things only scratch the surface of the content that I was required to know for this class. People seem to forget that this is only one aspect of teaching, making sure everyone feels included socially and culturally. So please tell me how "glorified babysitter" fits into this description.

Also, good teachers work extremely hard. A good teacher knows that every child is on a different level and teaches so that each child understands that material. Good teachers present the material in a way that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners can understand. They use a strategy called differentiation to "instruct a diverse group of students, with diverse learning needs, in the same course, classroom, or learning environment" (Glossary of Education Reform). Also, there will always be special education kiddos who come into the general education classroom for a subject or two, and it's important that good teachers have a lesson prepared specifically for that student that meets their IEP goals. These IEP goals are "Annual goals are statements that identify what knowledge, skills and/or behaviors a student is expected to be able to demonstrate within the period of time beginning with the time the IEP is implemented until the next scheduled review" (naset.org).

Teachers also have to worry about the kiddos who come from broken, abusive, and low socioeconomic households. One of the biggest things that I have learned so far is that a hungry student is a distracted student. There are several students that go to bed hungry and don't eat a lot over the weekend because their family cannot afford it. It's important to know that if you're going to get a student to listen to you, you've gotta keep some crackers or trail mix with you at all times in case they cannot focus because of their lack of food. With that, the other battle with teaching is handling the parents. Some are wonderful, others... not so much. I haven't had to experience this yet personally, but I'm prepared.

The key ingredient in being a good teacher is not the lesson you prepare, but the relationships that you develop with your students. I have sat through countless classes, and not once have I remembered the material taught word for word, but I have remembered the relationship that I've had with the teacher or professor. Being a teacher means that:

"students want to know that you care before they care about how much you know"

Building a relationship with 30+ kids is hard, but it's possible. You have to know that it's okay to admit your personal struggles and show that you are not a robot. Having a relationship with your kids means apologizing when you realize that you taught or did something wrong. Having a relationship means caring about things that students also care about. If they're concerned about something, it's your job to ask about it. Being a relational teacher means asking yourself: "what can I learn from my students today?"

I cannot wait to be a teacher, which entails a lot more than a "glorified babysitter". I cannot wait to teach the future generation everything that they need to know to be successful. I cannot wait to build really cool relationships with them, and see the graduation invitations from them when they graduate with master's degrees from somewhere. I am excited to love on my students and do something with my life that is worthwhile.

However, I know that I am not the only major who feels like they must defend themselves from the rest of society. What I've learned is that everyone will not understand you or what you love. Our job is to educate them respectfully. Every career choice is valid. Everybody does a different job in this world for a good reason. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and that's a good thing! Someone whose brain is wired to be a car salesman probably would not thrive as a scuba diver. Someone who is extremely good at math should probably not try to pursue a career in teaching collegiate literature. We're all different and we all have different passions. Not everyone will understand, and that's okay. Let's do our part to help them understand.

I am a future teacher, and I'm proud of it.

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