What It's Like To Learn You're Not The Smart Kid Anymore

What It's Like To Learn You're Not The Smart Kid Anymore

I was content to stay in my bubble where I was successful without ever having to work for it, but that bubble popped when I got to college.

I used to be the smart kid. By no means was I the best of the pack, vying for first place in grades and extracurriculars, but I was definitely above average, scoring easy A's in honor classes that soon evolved to AP and dual enrollment and being praised by teachers for my quick wit and verbatim memory. This only held true in some subjects, specifically anything to do with English and literature, and my heightened proficiency gave me an edge throughout my 13 years of primary and secondary schooling — all without trying.

Sure, I studied, as in read the text once and just paid attention in class. And sure, I did homework, in between classes and lunch so I rarely had to do any at home. And yes, I would stay up late to do two-week projects within a 24-hour time limit and still impressed the teachers with how polished my work was.

But I never exerted any extra effort to do anything that didn't interest me and was relatively easy to do. I never tasted failure because I had never put myself in a position where I could fail. I passed up contests and competitions that would have challenged my intellect. I skipped out on extracurriculars and after-school meets. I never stepped out of my comfort zone of schoolwork and classroom praise, content to stay in my bubble where I was successful without ever having to work for it.

That bubble popped when I got to college.

I learned the hard way that whatever talents and skills you may have, none of it can compare to consistent effort. If you don't hone your talents, they will eventually wither away whereas perseverance and gradual improvement is what truly lasts.

I could not longer sit in class and recall everything perfectly the next day without taking a single note, because now the classes were spaced days apart, and it was up to me to study in between those hours. There were no in-class worksheets to practice a new concept — rather, it was expected we would do it all at home and simply turn it in. If I wanted to ask the professor a question, I couldn't swing by on my way to another class; I'd have to shoot an email, schedule an appointment or make time to visit during office hours.

What used to be one chapter studied over a period of three to four days in high school soon became four textbook chapters per college class — all read on my own time, totaling to an average of over 500 pages read in a single week. Then there were the dreaded group projects, papers due next week without a single deadline reminder in between, online homework and "suggested" book problems and comprehensive tests with hand-picked questions about every single detail as though you were majoring in the class rather than just taking it as a requirement.

All this work in classes with professors who the earned the five-star rating on RateMyProfessor and then some (meaning, chilli peppers — more lies).

Some professors were easier than others, but every single one pushed for excellence in their subject, and not many cared if students had a calculus II exam and sociology paper due the same day as their class test, because we were all adults and expected to be on top of things.

I was not on top of things.

I struggled to catch up, fraught with nerves and terrible study habits that prioritized indulgence over self-control. I was used to kicking back the day before tests, not frantically re-reading the text to see if there's anything I missed from the third time I read it. I couldn't handle the sheer pressure of being expected to earn high marks at every single exam that came and went in a consecutive collision. And when I thought of taking a semester or two off, the regretful tales of fellow students who had done the same and simply ended up wasting their time kept me chained to my desk.

College wasn't just a life-changer in the way those whimsical sorority articles had made me think. It was consuming my life. I had little to no social life, and my entertainment options were restricted to a couple YouTube videos a day to get by. This was because I wasn't the average hardworking student. I was the privileged above average who thought she could get through college like she got through her high school classes with the help of teachers drilling the material into her head for eight hours a day, five days a week.

This realization was a blow to my ego. I had never been "smart." I had just been lucky.

I was lucky that I went to a high school where my teachers pushed me in class and gave me room to grow and master skills I would not have even attempted on my own otherwise. I was lucky that my parents diligently made me attend class every single day and checked my grades on a regular basis. I was lucky to experience all those opportunities without ever having to step outside my bubble.

Instead of understanding how easy and comfortable life had been made for me by others, I had credited the success to myself, even though I didn't do anything to deserve it. And now that I'm finishing up my second year of college, I realize that more keenly than ever now that the advantages are gone.

If high school is a series of stepping stones to young adulthood, college is a bungee jump into the real world. It's up to you to make the most of your experience — to control yourself when it's time to study and know when to kick back and relax, to schedule out time for your friends, family and strangers in between class hours, homework time and extracurriculars, to truly embrace the visceral, volatile, voracious life of a college student.

Only then will you succeed, having stood up on your own two feet, scrabbling your way to the top, triumphant in becoming more than just "lucky."

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Five Main Reasons I Chose Communications

Because I know people will forever hound me about "fake news".

I did an article a few weeks ago about “questions my family would ask” and my answers to them. One of the questions was as follows:

What’s your major?

  • Communications. Yes, I know to not get involved with fake news. To be honest I will do my best not to write about politics at all in my field because I want to get involved with entertainment journalism and meet new people and write about stuff I actually enjoy hearing about twenty-four seven.

This answer got me to thinking more about the fact that people may have a stigma against those going into the communications field. I know I for one have seen many articles doing “majors as _______” and the communication ones are humorous and true, saying that the communications slogan would be “trying to convince people your degree is worth something.” Honestly, it’s the truth. I feel as though many may have a negative impression when I say I want to go into the communications field. I can not count how many times someone has said “fake news” to me in some way shape or form, and it may make people hesitant to admit this is their passion. So this articles for you, if you wonder why in the world someone would donate so much time into something like this.

Learning on the Job.

I for one always had a passion for learning. School? Not until recently, but learning was always something I enjoyed. With communications, there are endless opportunities to learn about places, events, and people. You learn so much about history and settings which you may not otherwise think you would find interesting. Yes, you can learn on your own time, but being paid to learn about things that you may not otherwise open your mind up to- and things you do find fascinating, as well- is, to me, the perfect environment because there is always something new to introduce.

Meeting People.

I can’t think of a more interactive job than one which involves heavy communications skills. Journalism or public relations are so heavily involved in other people’s lives that it makes my life seem less boring. I believe the perfect example of this would be the 1998 film by Todd Haynes, Velvet Goldmine, starring Christian Bale. It follows a journalist who gets to travel all over New York and meet people in attempt to piece together a piece of mysterious history. Ironically enough, that wa the film that really made me want to go into journalism. The interviewing process is more often than not, highly intimate. You learn details about people you may otherwise never have met before, or crossed the street and not thought twice. Heck, you might have even let a door shut on them, but in that moment you’re sitting across from them hearing their entire life story.


Probably the most glamorous part of the communications field is being able to travel and meet the people I mentioned above. It is no secret that some of the most well known publications are nowhere near my home state of Virginia, but that’s okay! I look forward to taking that risk and living in New York. In my eyes, and probably a few other students’ as well, moving is part of the job, and all too worth it when you could get the chance to meet someone truly extraordinary. Personally, if I were to carry on in communications, my section would focus on the entertainment industry (films and the like) and so conventions are a big part of publicity and press. Being able to go there under the title “press” interview some of the biggest stars in horror or other films, interviewing Oscar nominees? There’s no opportunity if you stay grounded in your roots. You have to move to find the story.


And communications isn’t just for talking! You get to get involved with campaigns and marketing as well. It opens doors to getting work scene, making posters and merchandise for artists, commercial advertising, films, and so forth. There’s a truly creative aspect that comes with communications whether it be posters, presentations, or merchandising. It’s a real art form you don’t appreciate until you sit through a lecture on fonts.

Having a Voice

Okay, this ones a little cliche, but one of my personal favorite aspects of communications- mass communications- is being able to have a voice, be it in front of a small group or a big audience. It allows you to test yourself, and see where you really stand on certain aspects (yes, we are taking the political bullet here). It also allows you to spread your message and persuade others to think critically about what they believe. I believe that communications gives a very heavy sense of empathy which some (most) may lack, the understanding of other people and their sides to some issues, big or small. Once the message is out, it’s the ultimate gateway to compromise.

I use to be incredibly introverted, and going into the communications field has helped me to create another version of myself entirely. It opens doors to figuring out what your morals and ethics are, a road of self discovery, if you will. Communications isn’t just “fake news” and politics, it’s an entire world of never ending education and facts and learning, and while it may not be as glamorous as a lawyer or doctor, it is just a fascinating to the right people.

Cover Image Credit: pixabay.com

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Thoughts from a Concerned Teacher

Check this out for a teacher's thoughts on arming teachers and weapons in the classroom.

In general, the debate over gun control and the "proper" interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has possibly been one of the most explosive areas of argument in my personal life. I'm only a young twenty-something and I know that I still have a long way to go, but this is the first time in my brief life where I have actually lost and damaged friendships by expressing my opinions on a controversial matter. I have been called stupid, ignorant, idiotic, and treasonous for my words and views. And as per usual in the United States, any opinion must be boiled down into one of two parties, one of two sides of the aisle, one of two opposing sides, one of two political factions at war.

Several days ago, in reaction to the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the principal of my school wrote a letter to all parents and students that laid out our school's safety procedures and priorities. While reading it to my 6th grade class, I did my level best to emphasize to them that their safety and well-being was more important to me than anything else in the world. I stressed to them that I would do anything to keep them safe, and that if we take our safety procedures seriously, the living nightmares that have come crashing into reality in schools across this nation will never, God willing, ever reach us here. With less than a minute left in the class period, a student shot up his hand and quickly asked, "But what if it does?"

I truthfully didn't have the time to answer him in that moment, and I hurriedly replied that he and his classmates needed to move on to their next class. But I truthfully didn't have an answer for him.

What I can't tell my students is just how afraid I am.

One of the solutions that was thrown out at me in a rather frustrated fervor was the presence of even more guns in schools. It was aggressively suggested to me that not only should teachers be armed, but also that armed guards should be regularly posted at schools. (This is a random aside, but I seriously never thought that in America, the schools where we teach and learn would ever have anything in common with military bases, prisons, or war zones.)

My problem with this solution is the terrifying X factor that introducing even more guns into a school can possibly produce. Accidental gun-related injuries and deaths as a result of various forms of mishandling are at the top of my list of concerns. And honestly, other people have spoken on this topic far more eloquently than I have. On Twitter, Mark Popham has written the following:

“Every time another one of these mass shootings happens—right when people start telling us that the answer is more guns, guns for everyone, guns for teachers, guns for students—I think about Chris Kyle. Chris Kyle was the American Sniper guy—a highly decorated Navy Seal sniper with 150 confirmed kills in the Iraq War. Whatever else is true about him, he definitely was very good at shooting guns and used to being in combat environments.

On February 2nd, 2013, Kyle and a friend took a 25 year old Marine veteran to a shooting range, in the hope of helping him with his PTSD. On the way Kyle realized that the guy was dangerous, and texted his friend as such; the friend replied affirmatively. If this was a movie the 25 year old would have freaked out and drawn a weapon, and Kyle would have shot him or shot the gun out of his hand or held him at gunpoint. But it wasn't a movie. What actually happened was a Navy Seal military sniper and his friend were both shot to death with Kyle's own guns. Both of them were armed, and neither had time to even unholster their weapons.

Kyle knew that the man he was with was dangerous. He knew he was armed—he armed him! To the degree that anyone could be forewarned and prepared for a situation, Kyle was. And yet the other guy shot two armed and trained men dead, got in a car and drove away. I can spend the rest of my life at a gun range and not have the facility with firearms that Chris Kyle did. So how the hell is a gun going to help me, or a terrified social studies teacher? Because it doesn't look like it did squat for him.

No amount of training and no gun on your belt is going to let you dodge a bullet or keep it from ripping the life out of you. Every student and teacher at that school could have been trained military personnel with access to weapons and that many people could have still died. We know that because the 2009 Fort Hood shooting—which occurred on a MILITARY BASE—killed 13.

Today a bunch of men are going to go to a gun store and they're going to buy their third or 10th or 25th gun, because this scares them, and they think the gun is going to keep them safe. They're going to be Action Movie Chris Kyle, not Actual Real Life Chris Kyle Who Was Murdered. It’s going to keep on happening. And it’s going to get worse and worse. (https://twitter.com/markpopham/status/964157761427...)

On that same topic, John Windham rather hit the nail on the head regarding the actual reality of the presence of a weapon in the classroom, as well as the after-effects of such a horrific event:

Ok, I am a teacher. I hear shooting. Do I first secure the room and make sure all my kids are safe, or do I leave the room and hunt the shooter? Can you imagine how noncombatant children are going to react when I pull my weapon? What do I do if a child tries to stop me because they don’t like guns—how do I control that situation? Next, if I do get the room secure and get the kids safe, where do I aim my weapon?

Safety on or off? Remember, I have 35 kids that I have to respond to while I am getting my weapon ready to fire. Do I aim at the door, praying that some innocent doesn’t bang on the door? Meanwhile, I'm praying that my kids don’t freak out and start screaming, "Shoot, shoot!!" What if I shoot an innocent? Would it be considered innocent friendly fire, or am I now up for legal charges? Maybe I should aim at the window and pray I don’t shoot at a cop because what I see is a long gun and not the cop.

Maybe I have all this worked out in my head (no CC class on God’s green Earth trains this). So how do I train, qualify, practice? Who pays for this? I've got more questions. Say that I am defending the room, ready to fire while my kids are freaked out (by the way, the kids have no eye or ear protection), and I shoot the bad guy. They get to watch their teacher kill another human. Sure, there will be kids that will see me a hero, those kids are cool. What about the parents and kids that are not cool with my change from teacher to shooter? These are families from my neighborhood, and I will see them everyday. School is extremely social. Children won’t learn from teachers they don’t connect with or admire, so now I have severed relationships.

Now the end of my story goes like this: say my favorite little one comes to school, and in class, pulls a gun. I love this kid--I know the family, I probably taught other members of that family--and now I have to try to shoot and kill this child. What about my mental health? I am going to say, it ain’t easy--this armed teacher thing. We are not combat trained, and we don’t look at our kids as targets I might have to engage in the future. So, do you really want a combat minded person teaching kids?

These are the quotes that have truly guided me on this issue, and they articulate how I feel about it far better than I myself could have done.

Above all, I'm tired, dear readers. I'm exhausted and I'm afraid for my students in this country. Screw politics. Screw the sides of the aisle. All I want is a guarantee that our children can walk into institutions of learning without the fear of never going home again.

Stay safe, friends and readers. Godspeed.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/building-ceiling-classroom-daylight-373488/

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