My journey to where I am today as a learner is not one filled with positive life-changing moments, but rather a lengthy compiling of failures and struggles with an intermittent sprinkling of much-needed encouragement along the way.
BUT, here’s the truth of the matter.
Sometimes, it’s those struggles in life that help us grow in the direction we are intended to go.
As you read through just a handful of the moments that I believe helped shape me as a learner (and as a human being), see it as a story of triumph. Remember, YOU get to choose what you’ll do with the hand that life deals you.
Learn from it. Grow from it. Become a better person because of it.
I was bullied.
(Photo CC by Loren Kerns https://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenkerns/10855876226 )
From the time I was in elementary school to the day I graduated high school, I was bullied. Their words cut deep, and my peers were relentless. Nothing I did was ever right. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I was ridiculed, teased, shamed, and harassed. Every day there was something.
There were a few times when the bullying went beyond damaging words and became physical.
In elementary, I remember being yanked off my feet by my ponytail on the basketball court by a girl who hated me for reasons I can’t even recall.
In junior high, I remember hobbling around after a classmate decided to stomp on my foot with the heel of his cowboy boots, which broke one of my toes.
In high school, I remember the blood running down my leg during a track meet after someone thought I deserved a kick to the shin with their spikes. I still have the scar.
When my mom died from cancer my freshman year, I thought perhaps the bullying would stop. It did…for a short time. And then it returned full force. Apparently, even a child who recently lost her mother is not safe from the torment of her peers.
I was still not good enough for them.
A few years ago, I was surprised when I received a Facebook message from a classmate who apologized for the way that he treated me so many years ago. Even though that message was the only apology I’ve ever received, it acknowledged what happened to me, and validated the way it effects me even today.
Today, I can now say that I’m thankful for being bullied for so many years.
Yes, I truly am.
The way my peers treated me has made me a more empathetic and kind individual. I know first hand how words can hurt and how bullying leaves lasting effects on those on the receiving end. I understand how bullying can have a negative effect on the way a student performs in school and the choices they make in life.
I also understand the way a kind word or gesture can change a person’s entire day.
A part of me finds motivation to be a successful learner because everyone thought I would fail. Do you hear that little voice in your head that says you are a failure?
It’s a liar.
No matter how many times you hear people tell you that you’re not good enough or that you’ll fail, don’t ever let their words become that little voice in your head.
I barely graduated high school, and I was a college drop out.
(Photo CC by Robert Hruzek https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhruzek/6517253983)
I eventually just didn’t care about school. My peers had broke me. They had won. I was desperately grasping at straws just trying to feel accepted.
Maybe if I drink this beer they’ll like me.
Maybe if I sneak out of the house they’ll find me more cool.
Maybe if I get a boyfriend I’ll feel more wanted.
Maybe if I smoke this…
It didn’t work, and my grades suffered. When I was a senior in high school, there was fear I wouldn’t graduate because my grade in Government class was so low. It was down to the wire, but somehow I passed…
With a D-.
At the age of 17, I started college and still cared very little about anything. I was living on my own and making even poorer choices. I just wanted to feel accepted. I just wanted to feel as though someone cared. I just wanted to feel like I wasn’t a complete LOSER.
My second semester of college, I simply stopped going to classes. I flunked. All F’s.
This wasn’t the end of my story, though, and I’m thankful now for these failures, as they’ve become powerful life lessons.
The struggles I endured eventually made me stronger and gave me the motivation to succeed in learning…and life. Don’t ever let your past failures dictate your future successes!
I strengthened my relationship with God.
(Photo CC by Justin Lowery https://www.flickr.com/photos/justintosh/759210960)
“I don’t believe in God anymore.” I clearly remember saying those words to my dad and step-mom as we were making a trip to visit family in California. I was in high school at the time, and I was struggling. I didn’t think there could be a God, because if there was, he wouldn’t have let all of the bad things happen to me.
My mom wouldn’t have died.
I would have a better relationship with my dad.
I wouldn’t have been bullied every day in school.
I didn’t fully feel His presence for a few years, as I grappled with finding myself in the plentitude of bad decisions I made.
I finally found my way back to Him after my husband and I lost our first child to a miscarriage. Sometimes it happens that way. Sometimes it takes an unimaginable tragedy to bring us back to our knees in prayer. Though my heart still cries for the child I never get to see grow up, I’m thankful that my heartbreak was the foundation of the incredible relationship I have with God now. Without understanding His love, His word, His strength, and His promises, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be the student I am today. I wouldn’t be the successful learner that I’ve become.
I know now that He was there through it all. That’s what’s so beautiful about the way He loves us. He is ALWAYS there through it all.
I became a mother.
(Photo CC by Wilson X https://www.flickr.com/photos/wilson_x/2497799186)
When you become a mother, your heart suddenly changes in the most incredible way. Your life revolves around these beautiful little miracles that are completely dependent on the choices that you make. It’s no longer about you, but rather these amazing little humans that God has entrusted YOU with.
I was blessed to be a stay at home mom while my children were little, and I wouldn’t have changed that for anything. I was there for every first, for every milestone. I was there to rock them to sleep and feed them when they were hungry. I was there to kiss the boo-boos and play endless games of blocks and cars. I loved every minute of it, because I love them dearly.
When my youngest was a few years old, I started thinking about what I would do when he started going to school during the day. My desire to be a teacher had been growing over the years, and I started seriously considering the possibility of pursuing a degree in education.
Could it be a reality?
My sons were my biggest motivation to finally take that step and apply at the college that I had dropped out of over a decade earlier.
I would do it for them.
My instructors believed in me.
(CC by Steve Rhodes https://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/1407557353)
I was 31, a wife, and a mother of 3 young boys when I went back to college. I was absolutely terrified of failing, but I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others as a teacher. As someone who did so poorly in school in the past, I thought the same failure awaited me again. I didn’t think I was smart enough.
I was making the mistake of letting those little voices in my head tell me what I was capable of.
I was determined to succeed, though. For my boys. For my family. For myself. For my future students. For God. For everyone who thought I was a failure in the past.
I jumped straight in as a full-time student, taking four classes that first semester. There were a lot of late nights, tears, and caffeine, but I was doing it.
Much to my surprise, my completed assignments were being returned with positive feedback from every one of my instructors.
Every time an assignment came back with praise, I was motivated to push through and work on the next. With every positive word from my instructors, I found more confidence to keep going.
My instructors believed in me, and I started to believe in myself.
That girl who barely graduated high school and dropped out of college was suddenly receiving A’s on all of her assignments.
That girl who never thought she was smart enough to accomplish anything worth mentioning academically was asked to become a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society due to her academic achievements.
That girl who thought for sure she would fail at college again was making the President’s List every single semester.
NEVER underestimate what an encouraging word can mean to someone, especially if you are a teacher. Sometimes, those words are just what a student needs to succeed. Sometimes, those words give them the strength to keep going. Sometimes, those words can mean the difference between success and failure. Sometimes, those words give a student the confidence, the motivation, the understanding that THEY ARE CAPABLE.
Sometimes, those words are just what a student needs to drown out the little voices in their heads that have always told them that they aren’t good enough.
Because after all, those little voices are often known to be liars…