Monday, July 29, 2013

The Struggles Were Worth It

I was not a bright kid.  I didn't learn how to read until third grade, and  I was held back in sixth grade because I was academically behind and socially immature. My second year of sixth grade was the first and only year that I felt smart but only because the material was review to me. Once I went into seventh grade, however, I seemed to fall behind again academically except in the classes that allowed me to be creative. It was also the first time that I learned to use my strengths to keep my grades somewhat up. I always did my homework and every project thrown at me because I knew I was going to fail the tests. This allowed me to finish high school with a C average.

One of the only reasons I got into college was because of Mr. Kisken, my ninth through twelfth grade math teacher. I loved his math classes. They were for us slower folks, but he was straight and to the point. He was grumpy but loved to teach. He also loved to watch his students play sports. I was extremely athletic and very good at lacrosse. Many of his students played and he would come to our games and cheer us on. It was a no brainer to ask him to write me a letter of recommendation when I applied to Albion College.

On a visit to Albion, I sat down and talked with a counselor. It was then that he told me I was accepted to Albion. It was a good thing because no one else wanted me. I bravely asked, "How in the world did I get in? My GPA was nowhere near what Albion wanted and my ACT scores were below average." The counselor took one look at me and said, "Your letter of recommendation from Mr. Kisken." He showed me the letter that my grumpy math teacher had written for me. What stood out is "extremely hard working and rises to the challenge both in the classroom and on the lacrosse field."

I loved Albion because they looked beyond scores.  They relied on the words of someone they didn't know and believed that I would be a good fit with their school.

 It was at Albion where I found my niche. I had always been creative and realized visual arts was going to be my major along with becoming a teacher. I still struggled with the CORE classes I had to take. Although I studied and had tutors, I failed many tests but did every paper and project assigned to me. I graduated with a B average, something I found myself proud of.

The struggles I had during my school years were worth it. They taught me to be creative and hard working. They also have helped me become an excellent teacher. I don't very often see the inside of the box because I am always on the outside. I credit that to my own struggles.

As I mentioned in a recent post I have been taking a part in a writing contest through lesson planet. I was ecstatic when I learned that I was runner-up a few weeks back and received a prize because the first place person didn't claim it. The following was posted to their FB page yesterday:

Wow, the past five weeks have flown by! We're excited to wrap up our Summer Writing Challenge with an argument prompt tomorrow, but first, congratulations are in order! We are excited to announce Elana Waugh as week five's winner! Her use of dialogue definitely redefines the idea of an informational text. 

I post this because I am proud. Proud because I know where I started and how hard I worked to get where I am today. And of course, here is my winning entry...

                "Mom, you are not doing it right," my seven year old son tells me. "You are supposed to have straight elbows, not bent."
                I am a 39 year old runner. It is mid July and incredibly humid.  My son  and I are standing on the deck just out the back door of our house. Although I am a teacher, today I am a student. My son is teaching me Good Form Running, a program he learned in gym this past school year from his gym teacher. The program was created by co-owners of Playmakers, a specialty running store in Okemos, Michigan.  The goal of Good Form Running is to learn four simple techniques that will help a runner become  more efficient and healthy while running  resulting in less injuries.
                "How is this?" I ask on my second attempt.
                "Good Mom," he says in approval. "Now drop your arms so they make a capital L at your waist."
                I can't help but think the terminology he was taught isn't exactly what the program teaches, but he was a first grader this past school year, and this is the language the students probably understood.
                "Okay the next step is pancake feet. We don't have a mat like my teacher did but when you run your feet are supposed to be flat like a pancake and quiet, like this," he says as he runs around.
                When he is done, I run around the deck for him to critique my "pancake feet." When I finished, I asked, "How did I do?"
                "You were a little loud. You'll need  some practice."
                "The third step is to not have a big hole between your two legs when you are running. You want your hole to be medium," my seven year old explains.
                As I watched his example, I realized he was talking about the size of the stride between each step.
                "The last thing you want to do is lean forward a little bit but make sure your body is straight and not bent." He ran around the yard with all four steps put into motion. I was mesmerized as I watched his graceful form.
                The next morning I went out for an early eight mile run in the rain. It was the best run I have had in 22 years of running, and it was all thanks to my seven year old teacher. 

John running his first mile race

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