"No Child Left Inside" · Family life · Growing Up New Hampshire · Nature-Based Learning

Wanted: Confidence for a Ninth Grader …or Maybe for All of Them

kids-on-snowmound
Greta channeling Mel Gibson from Braveheart, “FREEDOM” for a delayed opening from school.

Part of the magic of a delayed opening is letting one’s children play outside in the snow for two hours before school.  That is if your children are still young enough to realize that a delayed school opening means a longer night of sleeping.  Sure, the teachers probably cursed me for their soaking wet snow pants and mittens, but man, were their smiles big.  I posted the above photo to my personal FB page mostly because Greta’s expression is one I want to frame above her bed for her to examine closely every night and say to herself, “Look at me, world, I’m one strong, brave, curious, kind young woman.”  Carver does not lack for confidence following a ski race where he celebrated his “victory” with hands and ski poles raised in the air about one yard short.  He does, no doubt, have struggles, but I don’t worry about his sense of self in the same way I worry for our daughter and her future in this world.  For a while, she might look at this photo and only think about her love of her big brother, giant snowbanks and tiny shovels; but one day she will understand why I’ve hung it there.    I want that facial expression engraved in her memory for her to recall especially on those difficult days she isn’t channeling her inner Mel Gibson from Braveheart, wearing blue paint, wielding a shield and crying “Freedom”.

Part of the magic of teaching ninth grade is the wide range of hormonal emotion or conflict students share with us each day– sometimes LIVE and IN PERSON, and other times, only in their writing.  We’ve instituted “Freewrite Fridays” where students can submit reflective, narrative, or persuasive writing about anything.  Sometimes, they reference a famous first line of a classic work of fiction or non fiction to get them writing.  This past Friday, I received two separate pieces of reflective writing by ninth grade girls, each with different strengths and challenges.  They’ve allowed me to use passages from their work anonymously, which I’m grateful for; however, I hope the day comes when they feel enough confidence to share their work with a larger audience.

  1.  Charles Dickens wrote in the first chapter of David Copperfield, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”  I don’t know how my life is going to turn out, but I do know–without a doubt– I’ll be a strong hero.
  2. “I wonder what it’s like to wake up and love yourself.  To look in the mirror and not want to cry; to weigh yourself, see the the number, and not want to puke; to be with friends and not feel ugly; to be in public and not feel insecure; to shop for clothes and not feel fat.  I just wonder what it’s like to love yourself and all of your parts…I am good at lot of things and I try to love my body; I try so hard but it just doesn’t happen…I just wish people would think before they speak about how their words impact someone else’s self confidence…”

Two young woman with two very different views of themselves and their power.  After 20 years of teaching high school English, I’m still surprised when students share their vulnerability.  Yet, once shared, it’s out there; I’ve read it, and NOW I have to do something about it.  There was the young woman 15 or 16 years ago who wrote openly as to how her father had abused her.  There was the young man who shared that he had come out to a few close friends that he was gay but that he wasn’t ready for the world to know so could I please keep it to myself?  There is the young woman I quoted who just wants to love herself, and I yank her out in the hallway to remind her of her rockstar status, hug her and her eyes well up with tears.  She isn’t prepared for me to talk with her about what she wrote– as if she could just put the words on paper and believed they would remain there suspended in their own kind of purgatory.  The other one is not worried in the least; she is ready to be the hero of her own life.  Then we have everything in between.

At this very moment in time, my 5.5 year old daughter has no body issues, beside loving to fart openly and kiss her biceps she has named Judy and Bobby.  She loves her sports, her American Girl Doll, her art supplies, her hair,  her hair accessories, the salon, and her friends.  But this growing up thing happens so quick, really, and it can be so damn confusing all the way around.  I remember one of my favorite kids in the universe, and I know the exact moment she realized she was suddenly beautiful and now interested in the boy she had seriously, only the day before, been completely unaware of.  Literally, I remember the day everything changed for her, and it was in the ninth grade.

So maybe by looking repeatedly at this picture of her holding her tiny shovel in victory, she will remember her strength in this warrior pose and bright smile of sheer joy in a delayed opening from school.

Note:  Thank you to childhood friend Carolyn Norton Manning for helping me to draw the Mel Gibson/ Braveheart analogy 🙂

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