Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Deep Thoughts, Graduates, and 90's Music

"Closing time, open all the doors and let you out into the world..."       There are three days left of classes, followed by one largely anticipated, often avoided, and highly feared week of finals.  After this week filled to the brim with finals and checking my residents out of the residence hall, my Sophomore year of college will be over, never to be repeated.  I will soon be an upperclassman... "kind of a big deal!"  Although I am not leaving SRU this summer, instead continuing to work with Residence Life for the next few months, the end of this year evokes numerous emotions for me.  I know that I have disappointed many people, but I feel that there have also been very positive aspects and elements to this year, with which I hope have made these same individuals proud.  Regardless of the mistakes I made in the past, I have learned from them.  I have changed; made adjustments in my life. I am proud of where this year has taken me, and I am so blessed to have met the people here at SRU I now consider family.  As I think back about where I was just one year ago, I'm very happy and surprised with where I am now.  
     As I write this last blog, an incredibly appropriate song is playing: Semisonic's Closing Time"Gather up your jackets, move it to the exits, I hope you have found a friend."  The majority of my friends here at SRU are upperclassmen, ready to graduate in ten days, or ready to experience field and student teaching starting next fall.  I will be missing a great many of my closest friends next year, including my sister, who graduates next week.  I will be moving off campus, living with three completely new roommates.  I will be turning 21, and starting a new on-campus job.  As much as I am sad about my first two years of college ending, next year is almost an entirely new beginning, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."  I'm beyond excited to have made it through this year.  I'm also incredibly glad to still have two years to go.  "Closing time, time for you to go out to the places you will be from."  It's almost time for my friends to "go out" to those places they will soon call 'home,' it's almost time for them to start their big boy and big girl lives.  It's almost "closing time" for their fun filled years here at SRU.  I may be getting left behind, stuck with my youth to finish out my undergraduate degree... but I could not be more happy about staying.  SRU is my home away from home, and English Ed. is my family.  I can't imagine where I will be a year from now, what mistakes I will have made, or what I will have learned... all I know is that there are 10 days left at SRU for me this year.  For my friends, these are their last 10 days at SRU forever.  Congratulations class of 2012!  SRU will miss you, but the real world can't wait to meet you! "Closing time, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sh*t, Luck, and "Choose Your Own Ending" Books

Trying to console someone who had recently received very upsetting news, I said, "Everything happens for a reason.  You can get through this; it'll be okay!"  She responded,  
"I don't believe everything happens for a reason... I just believe sh*t happens."
Although this could be attributed to my religious beliefs, I really do feel that everything we encounter and every decision we make happens for a reason.  I think there is a bigger plan, and that we are all given the lives we live for a reason.  Even if this is not what you chose to believe, isn't it more comforting than just believing that "sh*t happens?"  I think it is better to look at life, and the challenges that you encounter, with an attitude of, "What am I supposed to be learning from this?"  Rather than, "Oh well, bad things happen."  Although I do believe in fate, luck, God, and throwing salt over your shoulder, I also believe in myself.  I can make better choices to change my future.  I can learn from my mistakes.  Maybe it was a nice little combo of fate and God's sense of humor that caused whatever happened to me to happen, but it is my choice in how I react, how I keep living.  Regardless of what you are struggling with, be it finals, how you're going to live through the case race on Saturday, or a potential life-changing disease, it is up to you how you react.  Life is one of those "choose your own ending" books.  God, fate, and luck have already written the multiple options... it's your choices that determine how your story ends.  Sh*t does happen, but it happens for a reason; choose your story wisely.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big Boy Jobs, Stress, and the Final Three Weeks

In the world of three weeks left in the semester, where an additional reading assignment can bring you to tears, convincing you that you may not graduate EVER, it is important to breathe.  As stressed and worried as we may be, these last three weeks mark the end of the road for many of us.  Many will be graduating, moving on to big girl and big boy jobs out in the real world, leaving the days of day drinking, afternoon naps, and underclassmen friends behind.  For those of us not graduating, these last three weeks mark the end of another school year.  Good or bad, in three weeks, it'll be done, never to be repeated.  In three weeks, we will no longer be able to make, in my case, Sophomore Year Memories.  In three weeks, for three months, we will be unleashed into the summer workforce, thinking back longingly of the days when all we had to do was complain about the food on campus and the necessary evil of waking up for class.  Three weeks stands between us and the end.  For me, three weeks marks milestone: a half-way point in my college career that says, "You're almost done!" with a happy optimistic face as well as "You're almost done!?!?" in a panicked, fear of the real world shriek.  Two out of my four SRU years will be completed in three weeks, leaving me with only two more years left to enjoy.  Three weeks.  Three weeks full of finals, exams, projects, senior send-offs, scheduling errors, and graduation.  Three weeks full of stress, headaches, tears, all-nighters, and goodbyes.  Three weeks, and we're done.  We may wish these weeks away now, desiring nothing more than the sun of summer and the bliss of being finals free... but our time here in this "fake real world utopia" of college is limited, and the ever impending Big Boy Job is only getting closer.  Three weeks.  You'll never get them back.  Breathe.  Forget the stress.  Make 'em count.

Wind, Rain, and Whining

"I, like, totally thought we were going to die back there..."  This past weekend, I took a group of freshmen from the floor on which I serve as a Community Assistant on an overnight canoe trip down the Allegheny River.  We canoed more than fifteen miles, camped out overnight in tents, and then made our journey back to SRU in the morning.  This is the second time we have made the trip this year, and the fifth or sixth time I have made the trip since coming to SRU.  However, this time was different.  This time, instead of happy banter, splashing each other with water to cool off in the hot sun, we were bundling up in rain gear; I layered-up in every article of clothing I packed. Instead of drifting lazily, taking breaks and alternating paddlers, we were all forced to fight the entire trip, digging our paddles deep into the water, attempting to overcome the wind that fiercely tried to blow us off course. Usually this trip offers a nice little break from reality, one where everyone leaves their phones and laptops at home, choosing instead to enjoy nature, fresh air, and laughter.  This time, however, it was every man for himself.  The freshmen on the trip were beaten down, not very outdoorsy to begin with, and one even said to me, with sad, exhausted eyes, "Kara? This isn't fun anymore."  As much as this broke my heart, I also was so proud of them.  Despite the wind's best efforts, and the dangerous tongues of hypothermia-threatening water licking our boats, none of my freshmen tipped over.  Although they did complain, and ask "How much longer?" enough times for me to threaten to turn the canoes around, we all made it safely to camp.  This trip was certainly not as carefree or fun as past trips, but I still loved it.  Sometimes it's nice to be challenged, to experience something that seems almost impossible, and then surmount it.  It's nice to see my "girly freshmen" who fear dirt, bugs, and being without makeup, grit their teeth and exceed their own limits.  It's nice to be so focused on a goal that you can't think about anything but succeeding.  Every single person on this trip was completely silent for over 15 miles of river... focusing on one thing: keeping our boats afloat.  The fight to not flip, the fight to keep paddling even though our muscles were screaming in protest... the fight was on.  All you could hear was wind, and an occasional scream of "PADDLE!" or "BACK STROKE HARD!" in an frantic attempt to save a tipping boat.  It was a hard trip, but a very rewarding one.  And sometimes, the human spirit needs that fight, that extra "if you relent, I'll flip you and give you hypothermia and you'll lose the food for the trip that is in your boat" threat, just to force us to prove that we can do it.  And this weekend, after 15+ miles through wind, rain, and freshmen whining, we did just that!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Justin Bieber, Wedgies, and Inhibitions

As I was working one of my regular on-campus jobs, a Thursday night shift from 8-Close at the student recreation center and gym, I found myself listening to the music that was playing.  I did not pay attention to the words, nor could I hear them very well.  I simply was behind the desk, organizing the night's equipment logs, and found myself dancing to the beat.  I thought, "Wow, this is really catchy and interesting, I should turn it up and hear what song it is so I can download it!"  As soon as I did so, I was immediately embarrassed, because it was Justin Bieber's new hit, Boyfriend.  This made me wonder... why did I suddenly feel guilty and embarrassed for liking this song? I had been fully enjoying the song, until I found out who sang it.  This is something that often happens in society, and something that especially happens in high school classrooms.  The need to fit in, to blend with the monochromatic society that surrounds us is so overwhelming that we often sacrifice the things we really love and enjoy.  The only time we are immune to this pressure is when we're little, and we have no concept of society or the rules and expectations that come with it.  Little kids will pick wedgies in public, not caring if anyone saw.  They will dance in the middle of a parking lot, or a living room, oblivious to the looks and stares they receive.  They will dress themselves in non-matching clothes, pairing their favorite items together.  Little kids are so uninhibited; it's beautiful.  I often wonder why this uninhibited nature needs to end?  Just because society says Justin Bieber is an eleven year old girl's dream stud does not mean that I can't blast his song on repeat in my college dorm room.  I think the world would be a much more free and truthful place if we all stopped worrying so much about what others think and did what made us happy.  So what if you get weird looks in the Quad because you're wearing socks with your sandals?  I bet you're comfortable.  Be a kid!  Be free.  Pick your wedgies, dance in a parking lot, and risk the "social sin" of not matching for a day.  I'll be joining you, blasting Bieber on repeat.

Love Notes, Walks of Shame, and Maturation Epiphanies

Sitting in education classes, we often discuss the hormones of high schoolers.  We discuss the focus placed on appearance that fuels what used to be "Do You Like Me? Check Yes, No, Maybe" notes stuffed in lockers, the worry about image that spawns fad diets and nervousness, and the social pariah fear that results from not being asked to the dance. I am always amused by this conversation, because the hormonal cycle doesn't end in four years.  It continues in college!  However, it is a bit different.  The "Check Yes, No, Maybe" notes are replaced with texts asking to "meet up at a party this weekend or somethin'..." The awkward, "My mom can take us to the mall and we can, like, walk around and stuff," moments have been replaced with "walks of shame."  We often say these high school students are "immature," "focused on the present," and "hormonal," but have we really changed?  Are "booty calls" more mature than punching your 'crush' in the arm on the playground?  How many undergraduates really focus on the future, rather than the party this Friday night, or the homework assignment due tomorrow?  I'm not saying all college students are promiscuous, running around doing, as they say in Crossroads, "God knows what with God knows who..."  but I am saying that we're not much better than the high school kids we're about to teach.  We never really get better.  Adults still gossip.  They still have their awkward Christmas parties where one secretary gets a little too tipsy on the "holiday punch" and disappears for awhile with the copy guy.  Adults still have the "popular lunch spot" near the water cooler.  We can scoff and roll our eyes all we want, but we were those high schoolers.   We still are, just four years later.  Sure, we have time and experiences these high schoolers haven't had... and that's why we're going back to teach them.  I just think it's important to note that we haven't had some maturation epiphany.  If you're still spending your Friday nights texting that certain someone "heyyy" and analyzing how many 'y's' he or she included... then you're not too far from checking yes, no, or maybe.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mean Girls, OMG Moments, and Kids Who Don't Shower

"That's why her hair is so big.  It's full of secrets."  "She's fabulous... but she's evil." High school mentality, at its finest... Mean Girls.  High school is full of them, and popular movies depict them well.  They're conniving, diabolical, and ruthless... but they're also smart, creative, and goal-oriented.  Even if their goals are making someone else's life Hell, or buying the latest handbag.  In a class discussion a few days ago, a fellow SRU student made the comment that a character in the assigned novel was "every girl I hated in high school."  This comment stuck with me for days, and all I can say is, as future teachers, we have to be ready.  We have to be ready for the incessant babble about boys, the "OMG, no she didn't," and the "I know, right?" moments.  We have to be ready for the sex crazed hormones, the obsession over texting, and the insult that comes with no one liking someone else's Facebook status.  We have to be ready for the kids who don't shower, the jocks who don't want to read, the kids who can't afford a notebook, and, yes, the girls you hated in high schoolWe're going to be teaching all of them.  You can't pick and choose the kids that enter your classroom- it's our job to teach them all.  Regardless of who YOU were in high school, we're all going to be the same thing.  We, comprised of jocks, nerds, wallflowers, socialites, band geeks, and Comic Book fiends, are now on the other side.  You may have "hated" high school... but you signed up to go back.  You won't only have AP kids who all love to read.  You won't have all poor kids who grew up just like you... and you have to be ready.  You're going to be their teacher.