Pearls Of Being A Wallflower

Pearls Of Being A Wallflower

Role models come in all different shapes and sizes.
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“Why don’t you go and sit there by G?” I suggest to one of my students.

“No I don’t want to, he’s weird.”

I looked over at the student he was referencing and couldn’t believe what he was saying. I looked at one of the timidest, kindest and most intelligent sixth graders with navy blue crocs and curly red hair. Every day, this student walks into the classroom and greets me with a big smile and tells me about his lack of sleep regardless of going to bed at 9 p.m. To me, he’s an ideal student. I thought to myself I would do anything to be like him when I was his age.

However, it has been eight years since I was in sixth grade.

Aeropostale t-shirts, colorful capris pants, and bobbed hair with a poof is the best way to describe my middle school appearance. At the time, I wanted to be the cool girl with the best “boyfriend” and the prettiest friends. My reputation mattered more to me than my grades, and my insecurity skyrocketed through the roof. I would’ve done anything to be the popular girl.

When I finally escaped middle school, it was never in the books for me to return. God works in mysterious ways, and now I’m back helping to teach fifth through eighth-grade intervention. Sadly, I traded in my graphic tees and dangling earrings for dress pants and blouses, but my idea of what was cool in middle school has changed significantly since working with some of the most remarkable students I’ve ever met.

Goth wasn’t cool when I was in middle school. The dark clothes, hair and makeup were too intimidating for me to comprehend. It seemed that the goth kids were always sitting alone at lunch and didn’t really want to socialize with anyone else. Now, however, I think the self-expression and honest outlook on life is beautiful and inspirational. I have met students dressed in black who have added more color to my life than I could have ever imagined. They are mysterious but observant and are proud to stand out, which is not something I would have ever been willing to do.

Cute, colorful clothes don’t make you cool; self-awareness and the desire to stand out do.

Trans wasn’t cool when I was in middle school. In fact, I don’t think I could name a single transgender person in my class at that time. I have met a student that has shown me more bravery and self-love than any other fifth grader I have ever met. It’s an honor to have been trusted with the story of self-transformation and being able to get an inside scoop on staying true to yourself and recognizing how you want to feel in your own skin.

Being the cute couple that everyone wants doesn’t make you cool; confidence in who you are and the ability to love yourself and acknowledge who you want to be does.

Nerds weren’t cool when I was in middle school. They seemed to always brag about their good grades and they always got the attention of the teachers. Now, their drive and motivation push me to do well in my own academics, regardless of the huge age gap between us. These students carrying around eight books in their backpacks and getting ahead in the class readings are going to be our future leaders.

Acting like you don’t care about school doesn’t make you cool; motivation and a drive to succeed does.

In retrospect, like many of that age, I didn't want to be like the out-of-the-ordinary kids. They were the ones I was unfamiliar with and wanted to avoid being similar to at all costs. Ironically, years later, I now view them as models for who I want to be. I’m inspired by their individuality and their bravery to stand out in a crowd. To me, they are the epitome of “cool” and should be seen as shining examples by everyone in our society.

I’d be more than happy to sit by G. I encourage everyone to open their minds and take that seat too.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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When People Respond to My Major With 'You Better Have a Rich Husband'

The things I've learned working with kids are worth more to me as a person than any college class I've taken. Most days, the kids teach me more than I could ever teach them.

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This past week I have been working at the local elementary school's art camp as an assistant teacher. I've been helping with the camp for three years, and I've worked at a preschool as well. Now I'm in college at the University of North Alabama as an Elementary Education major. More and more lately, I'm getting a sour face when I tell people that I'm an education major." Be prepared to be poor," they say. "You better get a rich husband."

But I'm here to argue against the preconceived notion that I have picked my career based solely upon the fact that I won't make as much as a doctor or engineer. Is this the mindset that you want the people who are teaching your children to have? If so, good luck to you and your family. I've been incredibly blessed by my short time spent with kids so far. Working with children has greatly improved my life and I'll tell you why.

Working with kids is not easy by any definition; I think that's something we can all agree with. But isn't that what makes it so wonderful? I've always heard that being a teacher takes a special kind of person, but I wholeheartedly believe that working with kids makes you into a special person. The things I've learned working with kids are worth more to me as a person than any college class I've taken. Most days, the kids teach me more than I could ever teach them.

I know you could see this one coming: kids are patience builders.

Coming from a perfectionist who began teaching with a low tolerance for anything that went wrong, I've learned a lot about patience. Children are just learning, just beginning their lives. They haven't had enough experience to shape their conscious or moral standards. In their eyes, they have two models to form their foundation upon: their parents, and those around them. So how can we expect anything less than occasionally acting out or making mistakes? Maybe we're the ones they're modeling their silly behavior after at times. Kids may get into more trouble than we prefer, but we love them all the same.

Kids are, sometimes brutally, unquestionably honest.

If your hair is frizzy and sticking up everywhere, then they'll let you know that you look like a porcupine. Or why, they'll ask with a giggle, are those red bumps all over your face? I'm so thankful that I don't even have to keep myself humble; the kids do it for me… and I don't even have to ask! They will never hesitate to point out your flaws or mistakes, even if it's something that you're trying to conceal; you can never underestimate a child's observation skills. They continue to impress me every day.

They stay optimistic.

It doesn't matter if they've never painted before; they're going to paint a picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex for their dad and he's going to love it. Being an optimistic person myself, it gives me high hopes to be around children who love life and look for the good in people. I think their optimism is quite contagious. If only I could catch onto being so excited about something that early in the morning.

Also, with children comes continuous laughter and fun.

Working with them brings out the 5-year-old in me (not that I don't act like I'm five years old all the time). Whether it's bringing inanimate objects to life or imaginary friends, kids know how to have fun no matter the circumstance. You have to be creative with them, constantly making up games and characters to keep up with their imagination. You kids keep me young... or age me twice as fast. You decide.

Their innocence is refreshing.

They haven't experienced the world yet to spoil their minds, and I continuously wish that I could be so innocent minded. In the words of Patrick Rothfuss, “When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind." You took the words right out of my mouth, Rothfuss. It's nice to be around little ones so untainted.

They're always there to lift you up.

There is truly no better feeling than a child making something for you, because they used their time and their resources that they could've spent doing anything else. When I have my own classroom, I'll be eager to display all of the gifts my kids have graciously given me. They love seeing their work hanging up because they know we treasure it. But the tangible gifts are only a small portion of what truly matters, which is the sentiment that I so often receive from kids. If I'm down and out, they can tell. If they run up and give me a hug or a smile so big, it never fails to brighten my day.

Lastly and most importantly, kids are authentic.

They're completely themselves, because the cruel world hasn't given them a reason not to be. They're unashamedly bold and that's something that we should all strive for. Kids are friends with whoever they want, and they don't distinguish each other by race or beliefs, but simply see each other for who they are. It's OK to be different. As the older generation, it's our job to set an example for our kids to be themselves and to love life.

Now you understand how interacting with students has shaped me as a person, and I'm sure those who have been around kids would agree. My passion for teaching has given me so much more than I ever thought it would, and I've barely gotten started. I can't wait to see how much I've grown as a person at the end of my journey.

So next time you cringe at the life decisions one has made because of financial reasons, consider that they have a huge heart for teaching and all that it entails. Maybe they're in it for more than simply the money. Never discredit an individual's passions because of your worldly attitude.

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Every Freshman Should Consider Joining a Living-Learning Community

Of all of decisions I made before attending Rutgers University, applying for a Living-Learning Community was probably the one of the best I've made.

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Of all of decisions I made before attending Rutgers University, applying for a Living-Learning Community was probably the one of the best I've made. The community that I joined was called the Business Discovery House (BDH). The BDH had around 30 first-year students and two peer mentors. I was also the only one from my high school class to attend Rutgers, so being a part of the living-learning community really helped me make friends more quickly.

By knowing 30 or so people who have similar interest and majors, it was not hard to find a friend to sit with in the dining hall especially since Rutgers-New Brunswick is a very large university with four campuses. At least twice a week at about half of the BDH would gather a table for dinner.

Being part of an LLC gives you an extra advantage in networking and finding internships. Twice a semester, we met with our peer mentor twice a semester to discuss how things were coming along and ask any questions we had. Throughout the year our peer mentors would host programs on topics related to networking, career fairs, and interviews.

When registering for courses, we were automatically placed into certain required courses for business majors, which meant less worrying about trying to get into a class that fills up quickly during registration. When it came to homework and studying, I didn't have to go to a professor or TA to ask a question about an assignment or test as a first resort since the people living next door or on the floor above were taking the same classes as me.

Even if you aren't sure what you want to major in, an LLC can help guide you to the major that will best suit you. Through the different discussions and programs that are provided, you will be a to gain a more thorough understanding of that area of study than from just classes which will assist you in making an informed decision on what you want to pursue.

While LLCs are often for first-year students, some can include upperclassmen depending on the school and the program. While some universities charge extra on housing to be part of an LLC, others, like Rutgers, just require you to fill an application and conduct an interview. If your college offers living-learning communities, I would recommend applying for one since it does help you make friends more easily, give you an advantage academically and find what you want to as a career.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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