There are a handful of principles by which I try very hard to live my life. A couple of these principles include always stopping for a child’s lemonade stand -no matter how busy- and not being allowed to ever get angry while driving. I have found these principles to serve me well and to always provide me a better perspective on life.
Another principle I try to live by is that you just never know what one is going through…so to always offer those around you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the person who just cut you off on the freeway was just diagnosed with cancer and is having a difficult time concentrating or the rude grocery store employee just found out their child has a severe learning disability.
You just never know.
When it comes to my students I try each and every class to extend the same attitude while concurrently holding up the fairly rigorous standards I have set for the course. As a human being, sometimes I fail in this regard and other times I succeed. I suppose that makes another life principle -to forgive myself when failing- to come in rather handy.
Several years ago I was teaching a summer course and had a student, Ginger, in my class who was quite charming and very talented. If one did not know better, you would assume this charming student lived a charmed life…and you would be wrong. I have recently reconnected with Ginger through Facebook and she just revealed to me her story. It is so powerful I feel the strong need to share it (with her permission) and allow it to inspire all those who may endure similar abusive situations in order to know that there is hope.
I wanted you to know the impact you had on my life. So many times people are quick to complain but so many times people do not take those same moments to thank others that have had a positive impact. I want you to know why you had such a great impact and so if you will permit me I would like to share a bit of my story.
I was married to a man for 16 years that had me convinced I was nothing and could be nothing and eventually I believed him and was emotionally broken. After my divorce, still broken, I was in a relationship with a man that physically broke me and went to prison charged with three felonies for what he did to me. I made an agreement to testify and in exchange the kids and I were relocated by the police and moved into our apartment with one bed for all three of us and a small suitcase of clothes. That was all. I was working 5 jobs and existing and surviving but not happy and not thriving.
I knew I wanted a better life and I thought going back to school was the answer but it had been 20 years since I was in school and I was scared and intimidated and didn’t think I could do it. (Mostly in part to the negative voices in my head that were still ever present).
But I took the leap and decided to enroll in a speech class. It was the last class I needed to transfer to CSUSB.
After trying unsuccessfully for a year to register for the class due to my enrollment status I took a chance and showed up to your class hoping against hope I could add the class. The first miracle happened when you drew my name and I was actually enrolled in the first step of my dream. The second came the day the class voted my speech as one of the best. I literally cried. You see that was validation from my peers. Not just the ones younger than me or my age group or older but over all they all thought I had done well. I was blown away and the seed of confidence and realization I could do this was planted.
The day I received the second trophy I was on top of the world. The seed had taken root and started to grow and I knew at that moment I could do anything.
I knew at that moment I was no longer a victim but I was a survivor.
Changing one word in your personal narrative may seem small and insignificant but to me it was life changing. You see victims are stuck and live a life of fear and dependency on others good will and support. Survivors on the other hand are strong and independent and create their own narrative however they see fit. And so that is what I did. I went full time to Cal State and full time to Crafton and Valley simultaneously taking 28 units. I also worked part time and still graduated magna cum laude. People would tell me what I did was impossible and I would tell them impossible is not a barrier but a challenge to achieve and surpass.
Since then I have not had the easiest of paths but I do not let anything deter me from my dreams or my goals. When an obstacle is placed in my way I just find other paths to get there. My motto in life now is to always be moving forward; to try new things, to constantly challenge myself. If it scares me than I know I need to do it.
So when you ask how I am doing I can honestly say I am doing Fantastic. And I can honestly say this life I now lead and this narrative I now live by is very much credited to you and your amazing ability to help others to believe we can do anything.
Well my kids are now 21 and 19. Idk how that happened cause I’m not old enough to have adult children. lol I graduated CSUSB and took a job as the Project Manager for Pulse Marketing who was named best Advertising Agency in the Inland Empire (totally true). When I was at CSUSB I was very, very poor and thought I might have to drop out or go part-time to pay for school. So I applied for scholarships. I received three and that was enough to keep me in school. One of them was the Jack Brown Scholarship (CEO of Stater Brothers) while I was working for Coyote advertising (a student run advertising agency on campus) and the radio director told me she needed a student to interview Jack Brown for Coyote radio. I asked if I could and she said of course. He was so ill we had to do the interview over the phone but during a recording break I was able to thank him and tell him how his scholarship helped to change my life. He was so happy to hear it and said the reason he gave so much to the college and the community was because his mother was a single mom and he loved to help single moms make their lives better. He said people that become wealthy usually leave the Inland Empire but not him. He believed in this community and felt we were all just as smart and all just as able as any Ivy League college but just needed people to believe in them. He was that man. A few weeks later he passed away and I was the last person to interview him.
I also took on the Disability sports festival and am now the marketing director and co-chair for the event. Currently I am in the process of creating VR that is adaptive. If we can do this we will be one of the first campuses to have created adaptive and assistive VR. I’m also on the board for Rolling start, American Advertising Federation.
I have taken up Cello this year and taking a graphic design class to improve my skills. Last Friday I won a gold, and a silver for the websites I created with Pulse and two bronze awards for my Disability sports festival and a solicitation piece. Felt pretty good to be recognized among the top agencies in the business. Made me feel like I’m legit. Lol. Here is the link to my video. It received over 15k views https://youtu.be/1LH8bsbS3qQ
Well I think I wrote a book lol. How are things with you? What inspired you to write your new textbook?
What inspired me? Are you serious? Ginger, you and any other students I have helped or can help in the future, consistently inspire me.
You just never know.
What a powerful testimony. Going back to school when you’re older is tough, I know, but I don’t know if I could’ve done it if I had to face her challenges! Reading this lets me know I can finish school (I’m back in up in WA) because I don’t have to face the mountains she had to.
It also drives home the point that we shouldn’t judge anyone, because we aren’t fighting the battles they are.
Isn’t it crazy Craig? I had no idea. When she was in my class she was kind, fun, and extremely talented. I never would have guessed her life looked like that. She looked straight out of the Mary Poppins playbook. That must of been a terrible battle you faced when you saw my Rams completely destroy your Seahawks this past season. So sorry.
this off season for the Seahawks isn’t shaping up so well. Looks like we might be entering rebuilding time. Your Rams are looking like they just might be the class of the NFC though!
Wow…Jimmysintension has turned into sports talk! After this blog entry of all entries….weird. Just kidding with you Craig as your Seahawk fan reputation is well known. I would not be too worried as you still have Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll…a pretty deadly combination of quarterback and coach. Can’t go to far south with that.
Wow! Just simply wow…her story is amazing and inspirational. I appreciate that she allowed you to share it. One of the things I appreciate about your teaching style is that you do give us the benefit of the doubt. That’s not to say you go easy on us because you don’t. You cut to the chase and provide good, valuable, formative feedback. It comes from a good place and that’s important because we trust you to have our best interest in mind. In the case of the student who shared this story, it could’ve made a difference between helping her get ahead or unwittingly sinking her deeper. When I started the Comm Dis program at the University of Redlands we were often put through an exercise where we had to stand up and look around. Then we were told how few would remain to graduate or get into grad school. This exercise, repeated too many times to mention, could’ve validated the scripting this student received over the course of her life. IMO that type of exercise (at U of R) is reckless for all the reasons you mention in the beginning of this blog. Instructors should not be in the business of tearing down individuals, yet it happens every day. Hopefully this students story is someday incorporated into an inservice. Maybe hearing first hand the impact of a teachers words will make the lightbulb go off and meaningful change will happen.
Thank you Cathy. Flattery will always get you everywhere all the time 🙂 I see your point about the U of R exercise and I can see how this exercise, which I am certain is about attempting to MOTIVATE not denigrate students, can be interpreted as negative. I am sure what turns out to be a constant reminder of failure was designed for the purpose of inspiration. Can you think of modifying the exercise in such as way that it positively motivates? Thanks for “telling it like it is” Cathy.
One idea that immediately comes to mind is a group exercise that splits the class into teams. The teams brainstorm all the possible obstacles between where they are currently (in the program) and graduate school. This can be captured as a list. The lists can then be swapped between teams. Each team can brainstorm and identify ways to overcome each obstacle listed by the other team. Teams can then take turns reporting out the solutions to the class. I believe this covers the objective of illustrating that the program is hard and success will require hard work. It allows the student to actively work at identifying problems and solutions. There is an element of motivation in following through on ones solution. Incidentally, blanket statements of failure leave the listener at a loss for what to do with the information. It’s a dead end exercise that isn’t processed or debriefed to insure there is a learning point attached to it. I believe that just as humor should be used strategically and sparingly in a speech, so too the negative motivation in the classroom. Thanks for the forum to honestly “tell it…like I see it” : )
Wow. I think you should be teaching the class. I can totally see your point. I do think positive and negative motivation is going to work differently for different people. When I was testing into English after high school and entering community college, upon submitting my essay I was told that I should not be in college and that was followed up with the statement to, “go ahead and give it the old college try if you want.” This bitch’s negativity sparked rage in me and totally motivated me to prove her wrong. I may not have been good in a lot of things though I KNEW I could write. She tickled my competitive spirit. Yet I totally see how it could have been the worst thing in the world for a different personality type. You seem to me like an incredibly motivated human being, much moreso than most -thus I can see why that exercise would not work for you. Thanks Cathy!
No, thank you Jimmy!
Wow! This is beyond powerful and motivating for me! I haven’t dealt with nearly anything she has and I always thinks my bumps in the road are the end of the world! Going to school when you’re older or even after taking a semester off is hard and I can’t believe with everything she faced she did it! She identifies her problems and solutions! After reading this it makes my life seem like a walk in the park and makes me have a lot more motivation towards finishing this journey! Great blog!!