To Students on Their First Day. 

Dear Students:
It’s that time of year again. You went shopping for school supplies, picked out the best backpack, had an alarm set, and woke up for your first day of school. It can be intimidating, boring, exciting, and even annoying. But hey, school is school. As someone who survived and made it to college, I want to give you all a piece of encouragement.

To my elementary students:

You guys rock! Enjoy recess while it lasts; those times will be full of making great friendships, expanding your imagination, and just having fun. I know sometimes it can seem hard to make friends, especially if you’re new to the school—as a kindergarten or as someone who transferred to a different school—but once you find those friends you click with, it’ll make everything feel better!
Make sure you are friendly with your teacher! They love to hear about things that you’ve done or things that you’re proud of. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help; teachers are there to teach! It would be a shame if we didn’t let them do their jobs, right? Elementary school is a great time to work on your listening skills. Because for the rest of your life you’re going to have to listen to people and when it’s appropriate, reply back to them. The earlier you understand this concept, the better off you’ll be! Trust me, I was always the kid whose report card said, “Emma is a blast to have in class, but she sometimes has troubles with talking too much.” I eventually buckled down, but I know your teachers and even parents would absolutely love it if you learned to be a great listener! Practice makes perfect! Just know that I’m living vicariously through you and some days I really do wish I could go back to elementary school. You’ll have a blast if you go in to school expecting it to be great!

To my middle schoolers:

Welcome to the most awkward stage of your life. Nah, I’m just kidding! (…mostly). Middle school is a great time not only to learn new things but also to learn more about yourself. You can really start to pursue things that you love in middle school. You like music? Join band or choir. You like to act? Do the musical or plays. You get to meet different teachers, all who are passionate about something. Find someone that you identify with. If you like science, have conversations with your science teacher about it! I know it sounds boring and maybe some of you may even say it’s dumb, but any chance to learn more, take it! I’m serious! Yes, teachers will give you information you need for tests to pass the class, but don’t be afraid to ask deeper questions. Middle school is a great time to start asking the question, “Why?”
Have friends who support you. No one will ever be happy with a friend that tears them down. It’s just not worth it to have negative influences in your life at such an integral part of your growing up. Have friends you can laugh with. Ones you can talk about life with. Ones you can study with. And it’s more than okay if those aren’t all the same people! Don’t always stick to the confines of group. Open your eyes to all the other people who are searching for friendship too! Sometimes they can be the best of friends.
Middle school may be more of a challenge than elementary but I have no doubt that if you really concentrate and believe, you can do it!

To my high schoolers:

Go ahead, give yourself a pat on the back—regardless of whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior—give yourself a pat on the back. While I am very proud of my elementary students and middle schoolers, I am incredibly proud of you.
All of you got up and went into your high school today. Some of you were really dreading it, trust me, I know. Some of you were really excited, again trust me, I know. But some of you thought you couldn’t. You didn’t think you could do it today. This is why I’m asking you to give yourself a pat on the back. Because you did it. This is a huge accomplishment and most of you probably don’t even realize why. Think of all the years you’ve made it through. Think of how over the years your enthusiasm for school has decreased. Yet you are here today, a high schooler. You are an example—a role model—for all the younger students. They want to be you when they get older. Just remember that. When times get tough, classes get hard, friends get mad, there’s a little kid out there who sees you and aspires to be you. And at one moment in time, you were that little kid.
Life it too short to waste it on friends who don’t believe in you or support you. When I was in high school, I changed the friends I hung out with probably 10 times, and you know what? That’s okay! Because in the end, I found an amazing friend who stuck by me through everything, the thick and the thin. If you’re not a huge social person, then don’t focus on that. You don’t have to party or spend all your time outside of school with people. I personally never went to parties, but that’s mostly because I heard they were lame and they got busted a lot. If you only have one friend, don’t look at the people with 20 and ask yourself what you did wrong. You didn’t do anything wrong! You are just doing what’s best for you. You do you.
If academics is all you think about, let me offer this piece of advice to you. Try breathing every once and a while. Come up for air, relax, and breathe. Don’t work yourself to death, you’ve got a whole lifetime ahead of you to do that. Befriend a teacher or two. Someone who can keep you accountable, who can encourage you, talk to you. It’s the best decision I ever made. Those teachers know who they are, and they know the impact they’ve left on my life. They want to run this race called life with you—at least for the four years you’re with them. They want to see you succeed, to push you, to expand your knowledge. Don’t lose the imagination that you used when you had recess in elementary school. Tap into that little kid you were and use it as motivation and inspiration for the future. More than anything, stay true to yourself.

So students, here’s to a new year. To friends, to homework, and to your amazing teachers. May you go forth and conquer! I’ll be praying for you all, if you need the encouragement, I’m here, and please come back to these words when you feel discouraged. People do care. I, your teachers, and your parents/family want the absolute best for you. Go make this school year great!

Sincerely,

Your college friend, Emma.

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Post Graduation Thoughts

Post Graduation Thoughts

Yesterday, I donned my white cap and gown, red stole, and silver magna cum laude cord. I had my name presented as I walked across the stage, shook a board member’s hand and received my diploma. I stood up with my fellow graduates and moved my tassel from right to the left, and exited Spring Lake High School for the last time in my life.

To put it lightly, high school was hard for me. Academically, I never had a problem. I breezed through the classes, maintaining a superior GPA with little to no studying and excellent test taking skills. I had my niche for English, and flourished in any class that had reading or writing involved. I made great relationships with teachers and other faculty members. But when it came to connecting with my peers, I never fared well.

Out of the nearly 200 students that graduated yesterday, I maintain contact with less than five of them. Although it is noted that I did graduated 7 months early, so life moves on and people change, I still returned for graduation with few connections. I never felt the need to have the most friends, be on the top of the food chain, or “run the school”, but coming from a place that prides itself on its small town, amicable community, I often felt disregarded.

I always felt ahead of the game in some ways; feeling more mature and prepared for the future than some of my peers. I left high school early to start college because I was ready—I realized that high school had nothing left to offer me. I was ready for a fresh start with new people and a new atmosphere. So far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that. But coming back to high school for graduation was something I wasn’t fully prepared for.

I had to return to the place that I associate with a lot of broken relationships, hurt, anxiety, and difficulty. I had to return to a sea of students so happy and high on life—something I already experienced more than half a year earlier. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about graduation. I was looking forward to it. But coming back to the high school reminded me why I left—to find the real me with a new and fresh start.

I am grateful for the knowledge that I gained, for the few amazing relationships I have, and the teachers who inspired me daily. I am grateful that I could go to a high school that is passionate about college preparedness and exceeding expectations. I’m grateful for some of the acquaintances who could still muster kindness and humor, to make me feel welcomed at times when I felt pushed aside. I’m grateful that I made it to graduation day.

I went up to hug a friend after graduation and she said to me, “Who would have thought that we would make it through the worst 4 years of our lives?” That sums up high school for me. I had some wonderful times in high school, but my life was changing so much, and a lot happened to me and my family within those years, that it was hard to tackle maturing through life and dealing with the sometimes pettiness of high school–those years weren’t my best.

I made it through some of the worst years of my life and came out on top. I graduated early, got a head start on the rest of my life, and have cherished some of the memories that I will hold on to forever. I hesitate to say it’s been great Spring Lake High School, but in the end, I can accept that sometimes the good does outweigh the overwhelming amount of bad.

Graduation was something to check of the list of things to do—it was a loose end to tie up. In the midst of finishing my first semester of college, getting a job, and now officially graduating from high school, I’d say it has been a good 7 months. I look forward to plenty more in the future. And I wish everyone in the graduating class of 2016 all and only the best for your future.

Post-High School Life. 

It finally dawned on me this week that I will never have to go back to high school. I thought it would hit me November 26th—but what followed my finals was thanksgiving break. By the time it was the 30th and everyone went back to work and school, I felt like my vacation was extended. However, life likes to hit me in the face when I least expect it. It look as if my advanced planning was in shambles. One thing wasn’t going to work, then another and another. Eventually, I grew tired of my “fool-proof” plan. 
It was my expectation that the stress of high school would be gone once I finished. Much to my surprise, I felt more overwhelmed and stressed; I was entering the real world and nothing was going accordingly. Was I already going to fail at being a post-high schooler in the world? Niiiiiccceee, Emma. Reeeeeaaalll nice. 

Don’t worry though, there is hope for me! In one weekend, I went from pessimistic to optimistic. Every problem that went wrong with my plan, received a solution. I didn’t think I was going to be able to take online college classes before I start my freshman year at GVSU in the fall. I was informed that starting early would forfeit all my scholarships. 

But, this weekend, I received an email from MCC saying that as long as I had less than 30 credit hours from their online classes, my enrollment and scholarships for the fall ’16 semester at GVSU wouldn’t be affected at all! So this winter and/or spring I will take a few gen ed courses through MCC!

A few internship and shadowing opportunities for my interest in Speech-Language Pathology didn’t work out and I was left with no options to see what a SLP does on the job. But then, the admissions officer for the SLP program at GVSU, who just happens to go to my church, told me this weekend that she has set up some opportunities for me to shadow graduate students from GVSU and see on-site what it is like to be in speech path. 

I went from thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to write and that if I am being serious about my future and my career, writing wouldn’t be able to be a priority. Then, over the past two weeks, at least 5 individuals have asked me and encouraged me to pursue something with writing or English. They all told me that it would be wrong for me to put a stop to my writing. It was their words that gave me motivation to keep writing and honing my craft—who knows how far it will take me!

This week, I have finally realized that high school is in my past because a new plan has been created and it is one that I believe will lead me to success and clarity. I just wish I could have thought of it by myself in the first place!

So here’s to the future. To college classes, job shadowing, and more writing. I’m excited, nervous, and intrigued. But more than anything, I’m ready to go see what the world has for me and what I have for the world. 

Going Through the Motions: Year Twelve.

Well folks, it’s that time of year again.

With the snap of a finger, suddenly the empty and forgotten building is filled once again with students who, all together, are getting back into the swing of things. It’s incredible how we can leave a place for three months, and the day we come back, start up like we were never gone. You hear people say things like, “Oh man, it seems like just yesterday I was here!”, or “Wow, three months went by?! There’s no way it’s been that long!” 

It could be because I am a senior or because today was only a half day, but it really isn’t a big deal that school has started up again. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t complain and protest. Instead I found myself doing what I had done just three months prior; I found myself doing what I have done for 12 years of my life: I got up, got dressed, grabbed my materials, ate breakfast, and was out the door. It was almost involuntary, like my body knew what to do already and I sat back on auto-pilot while going through the motions.

We are habitual human beings…

For the next nine months, I will be doing the exact same thing every day, excluding weekends and holiday breaks. Get up, go to school, come home. Get up, go to school, come home. Get up, go to school, come home. For 12 years that is what I’ve done. All I keep telling myself is, it’s only one more year, Emma. Just one more year. The only problem is, I absolutely hate repetitive and monotonous things–i.e. the exact definition of a school day. I get a few weeks in to my twelve week term and am ready to be done. Once my brain catches up with my body and realizes that it is doing the exact same thing every single day, I mentally shut done, I check out, I throw in the towel.

At some points in my 12 years of state mandated education, I was certain I was going to go insane. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the hope that something else will happen. Yikes, when I apply that to what school is to me, maybe I do have a case in Welling vs. School Board. These people are making me go insane!!! Letsbehonest though, school can seem like torture. When the things you learn cannot be applicable to every day life, all I sit there thinking is, who even cares? How the heck can this even help me? You’ve got to be kidding me, another analysis on why the author described the detail of a bush for a page and a half, and you are still trying to convince me that the bush has some deeper meaning?

They’re wasting our time here, folks!

And maybe sometimes I’m a little over-dramatic and maybe in court my case wouldn’t even stand up to a judge. But at the end of the day, what do I still do? I still get up, I still go to school, and I still come home. No matter how much I loath it, I still do it. It goes to show how fast humans form habits, and how easily we stick to them. So yeah, I have one year of high school left, and yeah in a few weeks I’m probably going to be fed up with homework and lectures, but there’s really nothing I can change about that. They’ve already ingrained in my mind for 12 years that I have to go, I doubt I can change that now. So props to the state for brain washing us into 12 years of education (Alright, that one may in fact be a tad over-dramatic…). I’ll still toast and drink to that one!! 

To Senior Year! *Glass Clinking Noise*

Early-Onset Senioritis

Early-Onset Senioritis

I can now technically call myself a senior in high school. There is something powerful about that title. After all these years, we are finally on top; we finally run the school. However, it’s only the summer before my senior year begins and I already want it to be over. If I’m being honest, I’ve had the dreaded senioritis since I was a freshman. The moment I get into the building is the same moment I desire to get out.

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