Ris for RICH. Rich is my dad. He has been there since before my birth, and he will continue to be a part of my life long after I graduate from college and fully and officially leave home. How has my dad shaped my view of life? It is hard to pinpoint exactly. I know I have learned a lot from him: the best ways to save money on groceries, the value of gift cards in everyday life, how to relax and joke and be the comedic relief (not that I use that lesson very often, unfortunately), how to separate work and home and truly enjoy being at home (another lesson I need to put into practice more often), and so much more.
My dad has never been a super vocal presence in my life; he usually quietly supports from the sidelines while my mom takes a more active role in my life. I’m not sure exactly why that is. Maybe it’s because his parents aren’t the most warm and fuzzy people or maybe it’s because it just comes more naturally to my mom to be a strong parenting presence and my dad lets her do that. Either way, my dad has kind of taken a backseat to my mom in the parenting department. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
If I get married and have/adopt kids one day, I think I’d probably like to have my husband play just as big of a role in my kids’ lives as I would. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that my dad has the parenting style he does; I turned out pretty great, I think. It’s just a bit complicated, and I don’t know exactly how to articulate it. My dad is definitely loving, and he cares about all of us deeply. He just doesn’t always show it, and that’s just more his personality, I think. S is for SUE. Sue is my momma. I’ve known her since before I was born, and she has influenced me in more ways than I can count.
My mom has been there for me every step of my life, and she is one of my best friends. One of the biggest ways my mom has influenced me is through my choice of career. It is because of her that I am a teacher today. Back in eighth grade, my mom switched from sixth grade (secondary schedule) to third grade (elementary schedule). The secondary schedule, which I was on, ended before the elementary schedule. Because I did not want to ride the bus home, I walked to my mom’s classroom every day after school and spent time in her classroom with her students. It was there that I fell in love with teaching.
We would often discuss her kiddos together, and she treated me like an equal when it came to knowing about her kids. Mom and I still talk school together, even though we have different classes of students now. In fact, it is almost more fun, in some ways. My mom has also influenced me through my faith. Without my mom, my faith would not be nearly as strong as it is today. She is the one who has been most influential in shepherding me through my walk with God, guiding me through the highs and lows of my relationship with Christ. My mom has shown me what it is to be a woman of faith who trusts in an amazing, unchanging God.
I hope to follow after her example in that respect one day, being a woman of God who guides her children (if I have any) into a deeper relationship with their Creator My mom is one of the few people on this planet who truly understands me (or at least mostly understands me – even | don’t always truly understand myself! ), and I am so grateful that she’s my momma. Tis for TEACHING. In case it hasn’t been made obvious by now, I love teaching. Teaching is in my blood – my grandma was a teacher and my mom and uncle are teachers – and it is also my calling.
Psychologists talk about the sensation of flow: there is the perfect amount of challenge, and one becomes so engrossed in a task that one does not notice the passage of time. Teaching is often like that for me, although my students always keep me aware of the time. (“What time is it? How much longer until lunch? How many more minutes until the end of the day? ” and on and on and on… ) Teaching is in that Zone of Proximal Development as theorized by Vygotsky; it is challenging for me but not usually impossible. Education has shaped my life, in some ways shaping my life around it.
Teaching can be an all-consuming job, occupying every moment of every day if it is allowed to be there. Right now, because I am so new to being a real-life teacher with a real-life class, my job consumes most of my days and much of my thoughts. My students and classroom are never far from my mind, and I am nearly constantly thinking of ways (or at least trying to think of ways) to be a better teacher for them. The quasi-obsession I have with teaching is not sustainable for the long haul; I realize that. Balance is so important, and these next few years, the first few years of my job, will be vital in helping me develop that healthy balance.
Teaching is what I am called to do. It is not the most glamorous, the most exciting, the most lucrative, the most impressive job out there. It is the most rewarding job for me, though, and I could not imagine myself being anything else. U is for UNDERAPPRECIATED. For much of my life, I have felt underappreciated, as pathetic as that sounds. As young as fifth grade, I experienced existential dilemmas about my purpose in life, as I felt purposeless and slightly adrift. My underappreciated-ness continued throughout middle school and high school.
I would consider myself to be very intelligent and a high achiever, easily one of the smartest in my high school graduating class. However, I often felt that my intelligence was overlooked because I was a girl. There were several of us in my graduating class who were academically gifted, but I was the only girl. (I was also the shortest, but that is a moot point. ) I was also not super popular or super involved in many school things, unlike the others, which may have contributed to that feeling of being passed over. It was incredibly frustrating to be equally intelligent as others but to not be seen as such.
I even graduated third in my class – not because I had worse grades than the two guys ahead of me, but because I had taken one fewer AP class and more high school classes in junior high (the 4. Os brought my GPA down, actually). The guys who were in that upper echelon were usually pretty good about recognizing me, though, which I appreciate. Fast forward to 2017, and I am about to enter the workforce as an elementary teacher. I could go on and on for days about how elementary education has such a stigma of unintelligence, but | do not want to subject you to even more complaining.
Rather, I will say that education, and elementary education in particular, often goes underappreciated. Teachers are worth their weight, or more, in gold, but we constantly hear from the media and the state that we aren’t good enough. This is obviously a sore point, and one I will need to get over in order to have a happy life. I am going into a career where I will work tirelessly for less pay than some garbage people – that is just a fact. I am appreciated by God, my family, my friends, and my students, and that should be more than enough. V is for VEGETARIANISM. I have been a vegetarian for a little over twelve years now.
In February of 2005, when I was a mere fourth grader, I decided to stop eating meat. Back then, I made my decision because I loved animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I got older, so the idea of consuming the animals I was going to treat one day was appalling to me. After a few years, I lost that desire to be a veterinarian, but I stayed a vegetarian. For the past several years, I have been veggie out of habit, not out of any desire to be healthy or save the animals or anything like that. Honestly, it would be somewhat strange to me to just go out and eat a cheeseburger
I don’t judge those who do eat meat – be my guest. Being a vegetarian is a choice I make, not a choice I am going to force on other people. Go ahead and eat your bacon-smothered chicken sandwich. As long as you don’t try to make me eat it, you are golden. Being vegetarian has taught me how to be creative and adaptable. Restaurants have gotten better over the years, but even still, it can be hard to go out to eat sometimes. I have learned how to find the two or three vegetarian items on the menu and how to make non-veggie items vegetarian: double cheeseburgers with no meat are what I typically get at McDonald’s.
The vegetarian life also helps me with my indecision. Since I can be terribly indecisive, having more limited options for what I can eat really helps me live a more efficient life, something I definitely need to work on more. W is for WONDER. Wonder is my word for W for two reasons. One reason is because of the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Wonder is an incredible middle grades novel that centers on Auggie, a boy with craniofacial abnormalities. The novel chronicles his first year in public school as a middle schooler and the perspectives of various people on that year.
The book Auggie and Me shares the perspectives of three other people who had an impact on Auggie’s first year and is also an incredible read. I read the two books for the first time at the beginning of my student teaching, and they changed my life, simply put. I want to be there for the Auggies and Julians and Jacks and Summers and Charlottes and Vias and Christophers in my class one day; I want to love and care for my real-life students just as much as I do the characters in those books. I also chose the word wonder because I want to have a sense of wonderment in my life.
I want to be able to experience things that awe me up until the day I die. I never want to become so jaded and cynical that I cannot pause in wonder at the world around me or at the beauty of something someone says or the magnificence of life. Like the country song, “I hope [l] never lose my sense of wonder” and that I am curious and seeking knowledge and being stopped by the sheer unknowability of it all for the rest of my life. X is for XENOPHOBIA. Part of the rationale for picking this word is simply because it’s one of only a few words that actually starts with an X.
Very few legitimate words begin with x for some unknown reason, and when that happens, the x typically sounds like a z. Phonics rant aside, there is a deeper reason for picking the word xenophobia as being part of my philosophy of life. Xenophobia is defined by merriamwebster. com as, “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign”. While the majority of people would not classify themselves as xenophobic, I see most people as having at least a little bit of xenophobia. In general, humanity is terrified of change.
We love our comfort zones; we don’t often seek out the unusual or different things of this world. Change is super scary, and the younger one is and the more upheaval there has been in a child’s life, the more petrifying change can be. For me personally, I definitely have some xenophobia when it comes to changes in my life. I’m not saying that I hate immigrants or foreigners or anything like that, but I definitely avoid changes that are not on my terms. I like my comfort zone. The name in and of itself implies that it is a safe and inviting place to be.
However, I know that I cannot stay in my comfort zone if I want anything of consequence to happen in my life. I must overcome my xenophobic tendencies in order to live a truly fulfilled life and to grow in my faith. This is where God comes in: He is the one who can take away my xenophobia by simply trusting in Him and in His plan for my life. I’m not expecting it to be easy by any means, but I know that, in this next uncertain stage of life, I will need to embrace change instead of fear it in order to live life fully.