Autobiographical Reflective Paper
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, auntie-mom, friend, and a person who works hard to live life on purpose.
Our family of nine lived outside of a small Manitoba town. We are a close family even now, and there are presently ten nieces and nephews, with another one on the way. Adventure always seemed just around the bend, up a tree, in the snowbank, or through the pages of the next book.
My mom is a large part of the foundation of why I love to learn and why I want to inspire children to learn. I was homeschooled from grades K-8. My mom, who has a bachelor’s degree of her own, loves to learn, and enjoys teaching to this day, She was and is a dedicated teacher.
A moment that stands out is finding a salamander in our garden. Mom helped us catch it and we put it in an aquarium in our house. She helped us research the habitat it needed to survive, the food it needed, and how we should interact with it. We were so excited to learn that if an animal attacks it, the tail can fall off and it can grow a new one! Our excitement grew even as we let the salamander outside again. Mom did not let that that excitement fizzle out. She pulled out a globe and found books about all kinds of animals, and we dove into learning about animals around the world and the wonderful details about each one.
High School was a real shock. I remember sitting down in math class, that was known by all the kids as “stupid math.” I was with a group of students that were struggling a lot with math, and I thought, what am I doing here? The concepts were not new, or challenging. I knew that I was judged as less and it was assumed that I was behind or less smart because I was homeschooled. I learned quickly in that class to “shut up and act stupid.” If I answered the questions or seemed eager there were endless jokes and cruel remarks. The teacher seemed well meaning, however she had no handle on the class or the bullying that happened. She never spoke to me about the kid that made overtly sexual gestures to me every class or suggested I join a math class that would challenge me. I never even thought to talk to her; she wasn’t a person who I thought could or would help. I know that teaching will be hard and overwhelming at times, but what I learned from this experience is that I want to be an advocate for children. I want to recognize when they are feeling helpless or scared. I want to be a person who they can approach when they need help. I also want to help the kids who bully, and to do my best to help them see how they can be influencers for the better.
The racial divide in my high school was vast. It was in a majority Caucasian town with Cree reserves close by. Fights were common, interracial friendships uncommon, and stereotypes stuck hard. I was lucky to have friends in both groups and have parents that taught me that no one is less valuable than the other. Many of the kids did not. I think that the saddest part of it all was that we learned to fear each other instead of getting to know one another.
While going through high-school my older sister moved back home. She was pregnant and the guy wasn’t willing to support her. She had the first grandchild! I absolutely adored my new niece and that was the start of knowing that I wanted to work with kids in some way. I attended college in Manitoba for an ECE diploma. My favorite teacher was a woman who really focused on real world situations and how to solve real world problems. She would set up a problem that she had seen or encountered and put us to task to solve it. I loved her hands-on approach and kind demeanor. After college started the job hunt and an opportunity for summer camp in Alberta came up. It sounded like an adventure, so off I went not knowing how deeply it would impact my life.
The director of this camp was such an amazing leader. He led by example, believed in his staff, and was fine with mistakes. I remember when he asked me to lead a group of teens on a canoe trip in northern Alberta and I was just shocked. Why on earth would he choose me for that job? I barely like the outdoors. I am not a leader. The teens might hate me, and how will I solve problems? I am just a scared young woman. But, he believed in me. I did it because he thought that I could, and if he thought I could, then maybe, just maybe I really could. I worked with him for four years, and the awe of the moment when a kid gets it still hits me. When they finally get that they are worth something. When they finally believe that maybe they are strong enough to conquer their fear. When they finally see themselves as valuable and vital to this world, and that maybe what this world needs, is a little bit of them.
I want to see more kids get it. I want them to see that this world does need them, and what they have to contribute is valuable. I want them to feel comfortable trying new things or taking on challenges, knowing that they may make mistakes, but also knowing that it is ok. We just get up and try again.
Working in daycare has been very influential as well. It has really opened up my eyes to see how capable children are when they are given room to question and grow. The little three-year-old children who seem so little and toddler-like soaked up everything their senses could absorb. One question would start another, and another, and another. They would plead with me for science experiments, stories, and videos of people, events, and animals around the world. They were enraptured by cultural dance performances. We had great opportunities to interact with such a variety of people from different ages, abilities, cultures, and occupations. I remember when a woman in a wheelchair came to read the children a story; they acted scared of her. As they asked questions, learned what the wheelchair was for, and came to know her, they warmed up. Soon when she would come the kids would tell me that she needed the wheelchair because her legs wouldn’t stand. They asked to push her chair and were excited to see her. This showed me that kids need exposure to many different things. We tend to be scared of what we do not know, or when we see those who are leading us are scared. If the word is a place to be explored, and new experiences something to look forward to, I believe we will be setting children up for successful relationships and attitudes. I believe we can influence generations to be compassionate, understanding, and proactive.
When I moved to Regina, my niece, Keisha, moved in with me. She wanted to live with me for her last four years of school, so we worked it out with her mom and started the adventure. I loved the opportunity to be a part of her life and support her in some crucial, identity-forming years. As I was encouraging her to study, work hard for her future, and focus on the long term as well as the now, I realized that was something that I needed to do as well. Right now, my job was to be an auntie-mom to Keisha, but what was next for me? How can I challenge her to chase her dreams, to not coast along, or let fear or self doubt stop her? I was struggling with those very things myself. So, as we researched universities and vocations for her, I became more and more certain that getting an Education Degree was what I wanted to do. I want her to become everything that she can be, and I want to be everything that I can be. I believe that we can all be world-influencers wherever we are, however, we are much more likely to do that if we love what we do and believe that it makes a difference.