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  • Writer's pictureAlley Dezenhouse Kelner

It's true, I wasn't always "the best" student.

The secret is out—there was a time I HATED (👩‍👧”mom don’t say hate!”) school.

So when I was trying to figure out what (or who) I wanted to "be", I had to challenge some of my deeply rooted assumptions about myself. When I told my mom I wanted a career in teaching she was like...wait what?! But you HATED school! You HATED homework! You HATED most of your teachers! You HATED everything except recess and summer vacation! She’s not wrong.

My report card comments were formulaic; "would do better if she applied herself; would benefit from listening before speaking; would do better if she tried harder, stayed organized, and took initiative." And of course, my personal favourite "would do better if she focused." The truth is, when I wasn't motivated, when I didn't care--no amount of punishment, losing recess, or being called out in front my peers igniting any spark in me; in fact, it made me hate school, and try less.

The 90's were a very different time to be a student; a time where "figure it out" was an adage I was all too familiar with; where it was the student's responsibility to fit neatly into the cookie-cutter education provided to them; truthfully, it's not all better now. In many places, the default one-size-fits-all education is still common; all I can say is, not on my watch.

As my education become self-guided, interest-based and allowed me to choose (electives in high school, major in university, and ultimately entire degree programs in university) it was a pretty night and day transformation. I actually cared. I started to understand how to get the most of my brain; started to understand how to motivate myself and get really good results. "Good results" beget good results, because they are motivating and extremely validating (especially after 12+ years of being told I needed to "do better") so the cycle repeats.

I wish I could have a little sit down with some of my past teachers and school them on how to reach me and the hundreds of other kids who barely got by until one day they started embracing (not fighting) how they learn best. So, just because you "didn’t do well then" (by your teachers benchmarks) doesn’t mean you can’t have profound impact, follow your passions and create a career that works for you.

In short—-

1) splinter skills aren’t that rare (look it up)

2) when a student actually cares, the work speaks for itself

3) you don’t have to be good at everything, you just have to be good at something (it sometimes takes time to find it)

4) don’t let teachers opinions shape your future—only YOU can do that.

5) find the thing that ignites your spirit, creativity, and wisdom—and help your kids do the same.

Now go shine your light 💡✨💫

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