Wednesday, March 16, 2016
In the Halls of Learning
Yesterday I did an author visit at my old high school. I drove in the driveway where almost 42 years ago I drove out with my parents the night of my graduation. I wasn't sure what to expect and I'm not sure what I got from the day. I told my story to classes of grade nine students . The first class seemed detached , unimpressed and very much caught up in their own present day not overly interested in my ancient history. It may just have been the time of day, the time change or a combination of several factors. The following group was much more engaged and welcoming. But what exactly was I looking for? I am always pleased when kids read my books and they had done that. The media studies group had gone all out to create impressive book trailers and that was wonderful. The day brought some thoughtful questions, a connection or two with students that had heard me present in their elementary school or their middle school. A former peninsula girl was pleased to claim that connection and I had a boy come up to me telling me his grandmother said to be sure to tell me who he was. He was the grandson of a long time family friend and I was so pleased he had introduced himself. The school had previously purchased 40 books which was terrific. The teacher who invited me in has been a huge support and a lot of my WISP visits have been due to her enthusiasm. So the ghosts I brought along with me that colored my day were my own. My lacklustre high school career was mostly of my own making with a small part due to the system and the streaming that had me slotted for failure. That sounds a bit harsh but I was convinced as a student that I had no future and no capacity for greatness. The other day on my walk it occurred to me that confidence comes not from being told over and over again that you are the best, but from telling yourself over and over again that you are good enough and quite possibly just as good as anyone else. I look at grade nine students and see them floundering with the truth of that message. Some appear filled with the bravado that gives the impression they believe they are pretty special. Others timidly conform not stepping up to their true potential. Before I left the building I took a walk down the halls and peered into the classroom windows where for three years I walked and ran away from greatness. I underachieved to a art and I settled for very little. I came out of those years feeling less than I could be, but still carrying a deep desire to be something more. I found my way to get what I desired. I finally accepted the self talk that told me I was good enough and that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I let the doubt and anger I had built up in those halls go and chose to believe in the possibility of my own success. I lay no blame on the experiences I had at Simonds High but am thankful I chose to fight the feelings of inferiority they gave me. I found halls of learning when I was ready for them and for that I am truly thankful. I returned to Simonds High School yesterday after 29 years of being the teacher I dreamt of being in the childcare lab in 1973, as an author and as the person of value I always knew myself to be . I did not let high school defeat me. Whether or not the students got that from my story yesterday, I truly hope that 42 years later they can proudly say the same thing.