I can't remember if I've said this in my blog or not, but I've decided to start my New Year's Resolutions in February this year. January has been, and will continue to be, my planning period, as I am cooking up something really special for 2012. I've been reading like crazy, and I have some REALLY good ideas for what I want to do. I just have to organize those ideas into one cohesive, massive project. Have any of you read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin? I'm almost through with this book, and it will be the foundation for my 2012 Resolutions. I'm also reading a really beautiful book called A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik, and I'm hoping to incorporate elements from this book into my project as well. Anywhooo...I'll update you on my resolutions as soon as I get them down on paper and organize them coherently. But, in the mean time, I have an interesting question for you to consider. Typically, when I begin reading and pondering a subject, ideas about that subject seem to inundate my brain from all directions. Such is the case right now as I strive to better myself and create a happier, improved version of myself in 2012. A question was posed to me the other day that I've been thinking about a whole lot ever since:
Are you who you are today BECAUSE OF the people in your life, or IN SPITE OF them?
In other words, do the people around you lift you up and encourage you to become the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, or are you striving to become a better person even though the people around you are (either intentionally or inadvertently) weighing you down or holding you back? Isn't that an interesting question? I had never really thought of the people in my life in these terms, and it has really made me step back and take a good look at the people I've surrounded myself with and the relationships I've fostered and nurtured. I'm happy to say that, for the most part, I think I am who I am today BECAUSE OF the people I've let get close to me, with only a few exceptions.
This question, in turn, made me think about my role in the lives of others. Am I the kind of person that others would say helped them become better people? Or would they say that they have become who they are despite my influence? My mind immediately went to coaching and teaching, and I started wondering how much of a difference I really made in the lives of those I've taught. It's funny, but I think the years when I struggled the most are the ones where I made the most difference in the classroom.
My first year of teaching at Magnolia West HS was such a challenge. I was given classes FULL of kids who, to me, seemed to be striving to survive or even excel IN SPITE OF the people around them. My students struggled with absentee parents, poor choices in friendships, even other teachers who had written them off as "stupid" or "problem children"...the list seemed to go on and on. These kids seemed to have so many problems that teaching them the content of my class seemed kind of trivial and ridiculous. How do you teach a kid whose parent just went to jail AGAIN for selling drugs to care about what is going on in South America? How do you get a kid who lives in a tiny trailer with no electricity and has never traveled outside the area of his zip code interested in Chinese culture? In the grand scheme of things, did learning World Geography REALLY matter to this group of students?
I think it did. Not because they will ever need to identify a fjord in real life...they will probably never travel to Scandinavia. I can't imagine many of them having a practical use for knowledge about quipu (for you non-geography buffs, quipu were these cool knotted cords used in the Incan empire for record keeping even though they had no written language...yeah, I find this stuff fascinating...I know, I'm a nerd. I've come to terms with it.) Realistically, they probably won't ever even need to use most of the information we discussed about the United States. However, I do think that it was important for me to teach these concepts to this particular group of students. I think the message I sent that very first year at MWHS was this: YOU MATTER. YOU CAN LEARN. YOU CANNOT JUST SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS IN MY CLASS BECAUSE YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO ME. I hope that some of these kids felt my love for them, and that it made a small difference in the way they saw themselves and in the choices they made.
My mind was also immediately drawn to the kids I've coached. The girls I had my very first year as a club coach will always have a special place in my heart. I was blessed with the most amazing little team of 13 year old girls that year, and they have since grown up to become the most wonderful, talented, smart group of young women. Who they have become, in my opinion, is a testament to the many wonderful people they've had in their lives. I have seen first hand the HUGE advantage kids with involved and interested parents have over kids who lack this support, and this team of girls had some of the best parents ever. Many of the moms and dads I got to work with that first year helped shape who I am as a parent today. These were people who, through their example, became "BECAUSE OF" people in my life, and I hope that I was able to give back to them by being a "BECAUSE OF" person to their child.
So, to you, my one or two loyal readers, I pose the question: Are you who you are today BECAUSE OF the people you've made important in your life, or IN SPITE OF their influence? And, likewise, are others that share their lives with you better off BECAUSE OF you, or IN SPITE OF you?