Michael McBane: Getting People To Believe In Themselves

Michael McBane: Getting People To Believe In Themselves

McBane provided a sense of support and validation for each person to have faith in themselves
Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan

Michael McBane won the Emory University Cross Country Coach's Award after the first semester of his junior year. There are countless nuances and stories I can tell - but they all boil down to one reason - that he was a great leader, as well as the heart and soul of our team. Many looked to him as a mentor, or at least someone most people on the team looked - someone they could talk to.

As a runner, he was individually accomplished, running personal records of 4:00 in the 1500 meters, 4:19 in the mile, and 25:27 in the 8000 meters. But it was what he helped bring out of the rest of the guys, as a spiritual leader of the team that should define the mark he made on Emory Cross Country.

It's impossible to quantify how many seconds various people on our team have run faster because of his role, but he always helped others gain awareness of various struggles they had as runners or in their personal lives. When I think of McBane, it's his "no bullshit" and honest demeanor that comes to mind - something that brought relief to every conversation. I'm even surprised he agreed to do this article - I didn't think he'd want the exposure. At the end of the day, though, it really boiled down to one thing:

McBane is good with people and he got every person to believe they were able to be better.

As such, it's more appropriate to talk about the person, rather than the runner. Currently, he is a high school math teacher at Forest Park High School under Teach For America (TFA). When speaking of his future after TFA, McBane was uncertain, as many people are.

"I've never really known what I wanted to do, and I still don't know," McBane said. "I like being a teacher though so this may be for the long haul. It also could very well not be. Time will tell."

As his roommate his senior year, I can tell that he was beyond passionate about the job, planning his interview answers and lesson plans much farther in advance of when he needed to start them. An economics and history double major, in the summer of 2016, he was an intern at Wealthy Habits, a financial literacy program for metro-Atlanta students.

Right now, as a teacher for TFA, McBane has found his experience the past couple of months incredibly rewarding, but intense.

"So many things are rewarding," McBane said. "So many things are sad/tough to hear, so many days are miserably difficult...it's honestly a bit overwhelming at times. "

For him, the most gratifying part of the job is when students come in to see him after school for tutoring. Since McBane is pretty good with people, some students come in just to hang out with him, which he is OK with.

"I try to secretly get them to do math," he says. "Most of the time, it's me drilling them on multiplication while we shoot paper balls into a trash can or box. One of the biggest deficits in these schools is what I will call 'head math' - stuff you should be able to do in your head (like 7+8, 6x4, etc.)."

"So I try to get my students who come to tutoring to practice the material we learned during the day and practice with 'head math.'"

"I wanted to do TFA because I really care about inequities in our world, and in education specifically."

Criticism for TFA ranges far and deep - accusing it of dropping young and idealistic college graduates into underperforming schools, and that it is destroying the public education system by replacing experienced educators with inexperienced college graduates.

McBane conceded that he isn't the best representative of TFA because he doesn't buy into much of its idealism.

"I really don't believe that 'one day, every child will have equal access to quality education.' The inequities run a little too deep."

But he did have something to say about the criticism, as someone that actually is teaching in an underperforming school in the trenches.

"However, I believe in the organization and I believe in the work. There's a lot of criticism, and people who beef with TFA have legitimately zero experience in these types of schools," he said. "I can't name a school in my county that isn't understaffed. If nothing else, TFA is putting quality, college-educated adults in schools that could literally just use some more bodies."

One thing that has truly prepared McBane for his life as a teacher at Forest Park is his career as a college runner. For him, everything in life after being a Cross Country and Track athlete feels easier.

"Being a runner is a full-time job; it's pretty fucking all-consuming. For instance, I used to stress about how much sleep I got, what I ate, and was still always tired from grinding out workouts and long runs."

"Now I sleep way less, and have a worse diet, but have about the same amount of energy, although I lost the abs," he said. "So I'd say the short answer is it helped me gain the kind of 'grit' you need in order to be a successful teacher."

McBane made sure not to take credit for any accomplishment he himself has had, but rather to credit his ability to persevere through struggles to the people in his life. Last January, I can distinctly remember when he proposed to his girlfriend, Marissa, in the middle of a run.

"There are too many people to thank," he said. "Marissa, my parents, my brother, and my amazing friends."

"However, I'd like to give a special shout-out to my mom and dad though," he said. "They've lived such a generous and selfless life, even in times where they didn't have much to give, and I think that has always made me want to be a better person."

He had some advice to impart, partially as a teacher but also as a person:

"Be a good person, and be comfortable being uncomfortable. Don't take yourself too seriously. Use cliches less. Keep on keepin' on. When you fail, try and try again."

But I'd be remiss to not talk a bit about what McBane has taught me as a person. His mentality and demeanor show that he has passion and heart for everything he does and believes in, something I always try to carry with me.

Some would think that makes him hot-headed. One topic of conversation he's especially ardent about is the environment. Question him about fossil fuels or the perils of capitalism, or ask him to cite a quote from Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate," and he will argue with zeal about his beliefs and the facts behind them. No matter what you believe, how passionate he is about what he believes is something to look up to.

In addition, in the two years that I have known McBane, something he does is pick up on minor details that no one else seems to notice. Whether it was someone on our team's attitude towards running or how their upbringing determined their political beliefs, McBane provided a sense of support and validation for each person to have faith in themselves. In fact, my favorite McBane line that brings anyone into a conversation is,

"Well, what do you think?"

As such, one thing I know he is especially good at is getting people to believe in themselves. Whether it's kids or his teammates, he catalyzes in a confidence in people to do things they didn't think they could before. Much of this is through noticing a lot of previously unnoticed details about a person and then talk about it with them.

I knew I enjoyed writing articles, but I was previously always a bit cautious and trod carefully depending on what other people thought. Partially as a result of his influence and encouragement, he noticed that I put a lot of work into each and every one, and eventually, I stopped caring if someone didn't like my writing or my opinions. I started to shift towards writing about the people in my life that I owe to put me where I am now, a decision that I have no regrets about.

“Every day I ran with Mikey was not a day of training. It was a day of smooth conversation, brotherly competition, growing relation, or all three. When we trained together, we didn't think of an end goal. We always enjoyed training for the pointlessness of it - the beauty of exhausting ourselves for no other reason than showing we could," said friend and former teammate, Shane Sullivan.

"For me, Mikey embodied enjoying the process, and now that he's gone, I miss him dearly."

Cover Image Credit: Michael McBane

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The 10 Most Important Things You Need To Know About Relationships

Without communication, there is no relationship; without respect, there is no love; and without trust, there is no reason to continue.

When you see an old couple holding hands or sharing romantic kisses while sitting on a park bench, doesn't that spark warm feelings of love and happiness in your heart? Doesn't it make you think about how they maintained their relationship for so many years when couples you know have trouble making it past six months? And of course, some people are not made for each other and so their relationship just simply doesn't work. But then there are couples who give up the minute an obstacle comes along, which makes you think their relationship wasn't truly important to them in the first place. What everyone has to understand in order to preserve a strong, happy, and prosperous relationship is that love is colorful, and the same kind of love doesn't exist for everyone. Being in a loving relationship that continues to thrive, I'm going to share some of the few things that I believe should exist between two lovers who want to sustain their prosperous relationship.

1. Communication

Communicating with your partner is essential. I'm sure you've heard it before, but communication is key. If something is bothering you or what your partner wants to do isn't what you're interested in, say something! Neither you nor your partner are mind readers, so how are they supposed to know how you feel if you keep your feelings bottled up inside? Not speaking up and communicating your ideas, feelings, desires, and wants is unhealthy because one day you might blow up and say some things you'll either regret or feel sorry for saying. Communicate to find a middle ground in your relationship because it's unfair for one person to constantly accommodate the other. Relationships cannot grow without communication, so don't be afraid to speak your mind and embrace your thoughts.

2. Trust and Honesty

A relationship cannot continue without trust and honesty. By being honest with your partner, they have no reason to doubt you or not trust you. Trust is vital in a strong and successful relationship because you don't want to think twice about what your partner says or does. Almost anything can be acceptable in a relationship as long as you're honest with your partner. Being in a relationship doesn't mean that everything else in your life has to change. You can still see your friends, go out, and be your own person, but be honest with your partner with whatever you do because by hiding something from them, you might be giving them the perfect reason not to trust you.

3. Forgiveness

No relationship is perfect. That's because none of us are perfect. People make mistakes in everyday life in the same way that people make mistakes in relationships. Of course, there are some things that are unforgivable, such as cheating on your partner (at least in my eyes), because it means that your relationship didn't mean much to you anyway. But, most things can be forgiven. Forgiveness is extremely important and necessary in a relationship because we have to accept and be reminded that we aren't perfect. So if I bailed on you because something important came up or you had a bad day at work and said some things to me that should have been directed at someone else out of anger, it's okay. Sometimes all it takes is a simple I'm sorry and I forgive you.

4. Respect and Appreciation

Without respect and appreciation, there is no love. How can you disrespect the one you love and care for? Exactly: it's hard to find an answer. Respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Respect your partner by choosing your words carefully, honoring boundaries, being willing to compromise, showing consideration, and protecting your partner. Make sure you're being respected by knowing your worth, acting honorably, setting and upholding boundaries, being a man or woman of your word, and showing respect for yourself. Appreciate your partner for who they are, the things they do for you, the support they give you, and the growth that they contribute in building your own identity.

5. Emotional Support

Real men don't cry is a load of bullshit. I have been blessed to be surrounded by a few strong and courageous men in my life who I've seen shed a tear or cry when losing a loved one or simply out of pure happiness. We all have emotions and though we try to hold them in check, those emotions sometimes boil over. In relationships, it's important to show emotional support for your partner, regardless if they are a man or a woman. So when your partner is going through a tough time or is struggling for whatever the reason might be, stray away from the pathetic Be A Man go-to phrase and be their shoulder to lean on. If your partner knows that you're emotionally there for them, they might have an easier time opening up to you in the future.

6. Humor

Sharing laughs and smiles with the one you love is extremely important. After all, being in a relationship is sharing your life with someone you care for, cherish, and have fun with. Being able to joke around and laugh with one another is extremely healthy for your well-being and the relationship. It's not just about fun and games, but it's also no fun to be so serious and stern about everything. Keep your relationship alive with some humor, adventure, and daily laughs to see the smile of your loved one!

7. The Magic of Small Things

The small things in life are actually not that small. There are times where the smallest deed can make someone the happiest and that's usually because the small things are the most thoughtful ones. Preparing breakfast when your partner is too tired or surprising them with an iced caramel latte on their way home from work can be enough to make their day. The small things really do count and they are remembered more than you might think. There's something magical in knowing that your partner feels appreciated and happy that they have the privilege of calling you mine. And the small things can do just that.

8. Sharing Interests

Having things in common with the one you love and sharing interests with your partner is perfect because neither one of you need to accommodate the other! There will be days where both you and your partner will not want to do the same things and a middle ground will have to be met, but sharing interests makes it easier when looking for fun things to do and finding things to talk about! Having a few similar interests like bike riding or playing football allows you and your partner to have your "thing," the thing that brings you two together. Liking similar things is also a perfect conversation starter, but also talking about your dislikes and things that you don't agree on can spark an intense and even more enticing conversation!

9. Celebrate Achievements

The happiness you feel because of your own achievements should be the same feeling you get when your partner accomplishes something they've been striving for, no matter how little it may be. Whether it be winning the Noble Peace Prize, having a 4.0 GPA, or hitting a new record at the gym, no achievement should go unnoticed. Being proud of your partner's achievements can strengthen your relationship and bring the both of you closer together.

10. Love and Affection

Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life. This might strike you at first, but what's the point of being successful, rich, happy or really anything else if you have nobody to share it with? Love is one of life's greatest gifts. It brings people together and allows them to build a life that some can only dream of. But sometimes love is not enough to maintain a prosperous and healthy relationship. That's because relationships aren't easy, people are so different from one another, and relationships take much effort and patience. But in the end, if you don't have love in a relationship, you really don't have anything. Take the time to show your partner some affection, to make alone time a priority. The kisses, hugs, and even sex is something that in the end does make a relationship healthy. But without love, all of that means nothing.

Every relationship struggles, but only strong relationships get through it. Take the time to focus on these ten things that are important in keeping the love alive and feelings between you and your partner strong. And most importantly, remember that no one falls in love by choice; it's by chance, and no one falls out of love by chance--it's by choice.

Cover Image Credit: Marika Cygert

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8 Types Of People Fetuses Grow Into That 'Pro-Lifers' Don't Give 2.5 Shits About

It is easy to fight for the life of someone who isn't born, and then forget that you wanted them to be alive when you decide to hate their existence.


For those in support of the #AbortionBans happening all over the United States, please remember that the unborn will not always be a fetus — he or she may grow up to be just another person whose existence you don't support.

The fetus may grow up to be transgender — they may wear clothes you deem "not for them" and identify in a way you don't agree with, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them a mentally unstable perv for trying to use the bathroom.

The fetus may grow up to be gay — they may find happiness and love in the arms of someone of the same gender, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them "vile" and shield your children's eyes when they kiss their partner.

The fetus may grow up and go to school — to get shot by someone carrying a gun they should have never been able to acquire, and their life will mean nothing to you when your right to bear arms is on the line.

The fetus may be black — they may wear baggy pants and "look like a thug", and their life will mean nothing to you when you defend the police officer who had no reason to shoot.

The fetus may grow up to be a criminal — he might live on death row for a heinous crime, and his life will mean nothing to you when you fight for the use of lethal injection to end it.

The fetus may end up poor — living off of a minimum wage job and food stamps to survive, and their life will mean nothing to you when they ask for assistance and you call them a "freeloader" and refuse.

The fetus may end up addicted to drugs — an experimentation gone wrong that has led to a lifetime of getting high and their life will mean nothing to you when you see a report that they OD'd and you make a fuss about the availability of Narcan.

The fetus may one day need an abortion — from trauma or simply not being ready, and her life will mean nothing to you as you wave "murderer" and "God hates you" signs as she walks into the office for the procedure.

* * *

Do not tell me that you are pro-life when all of the above people could lose their lives in any way OUTSIDE of abortion and you wouldn't give 2.5 shits.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is gay or trans, you will berate them for who they are or not support them for who they love.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is poor or addicted, you will refuse the help they desperately need or consider their death a betterment of society.

You fight for the baby to be born, but when the used-to-be-classroom-of-fetuses is shot, you care more about your access to firearms than their lives.

It is easy to pretend you care about someone before they are even born, and easy to forget their birth was something you fought for when they are anything other than what you consider an ideal person.

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