The journey that led me to become the learner I am today has not always been an easy one. While some aspects of the journey were pleasant, and made me curious about the world around me and eager to learn, other aspects taught me painful lessons about respect and humility. However, I would not change the hard times in my life, as they have played the greatest role in shaping me into the partly functioning adult I am today.
1. Yellowstone National Park
The first key experience in my life that made me curious and excited to learn occurred when I was six, and my family took a trip to Yellowstone National Park in northeastern Wyoming. Here, I developed a love for the outside world, which, over time, manifested itself as an urge to understand the processes that created unique and wonderful places like Yellowstone. But, at the moment, I was content with being dazzled by the beauty of the park and eating lots of trail mix (without raisins, of course).
Inspiration Point at Yellowstone (Photo CC- By Trey Ratcliff).
2. Mrs. McClain’s 4th grade class
The second experience that shaped my learning journey took place over my fourth grade year, in Mrs. McClain’s class. Mrs. McClain was a young teacher, and my class was the first one she had ever taught. This could have been a recipe for disaster, but, instead of trying to intimidate my classmates and I into respecting her, Mrs. McClain took it upon herself to build personal bonds with us. Mrs. McClain is the teacher that showed me that it is okay to be a smart girl, and that hiding intelligence isn’t beneficial in any way. She also convinced me to cut my really long hair, which was past my butt at that point in my life. Having a role model like Mrs. McClain was incredibly valuable to an impressionable young girl like myself, and she gave me confidence to beat all the boys when we played the bell game.
Generic elementary classroom, similar to Mrs. McClain’s room (Photo CC- By Krissy Vensodale).
3. Cross country running
A vital part of my learning journey has been my discovery of long distance running. This sport, more than anything else in my life, has shown me how to persevere through hardships and push myself past my preconceived limits. The joy I’ve found in running has also given me the confidence to pursue success in all other aspects of my life. In addition, as a curious learner, I cannot resist the treasure trove of information available to me about running, and have spent ample time researching famous runners, the newest running gear, and the most beneficial running techniques.
Me running at the Chili Pepper Meet in Arkansas, one of the largest meets in the nation.
4. Take your shirt off!
One instance where learning was a bit painful was my junior year of high school, when my cross country teammates and I had the bright idea to take our shirts off during a particularly hot day of practice. Now, in most running circles, running shirtless is accepted and encouraged, but at my small Catholic school, modesty was all the rage. We knew our coach wasn’t fond of us showing our belly buttons, but we took our shirts off anyways, and endured a minor punishment. The next part of the story is where my intelligence shines through. Right after being punished, I decided, “Hey… I’m gonna take my shirt off again just to show her!” Needless to say, this did not go over well, and I managed to get myself banned from our next meet. Running was and still is one of my passions, and this blow was hard for me to handle. From this experience, I learned the importance of respecting my superiors, and that nine times out of ten, keeping my shirt on is the best idea.
My high school cross team, in all of our bare-stomached glory.
5. South Dakota School of Mines
The most recent, and most trying, aspect of my learning journey was attending South Dakota School of Mines my freshman year of college. The School of Mines isn’t exactly a typical college, and offers only a limited number of majors, most of them involving engineering. As a student who was fresh out of high school and who was just a little bit cocky about my intelligence, I decided that this college would be the best place to challenge myself. However, I soon realized that my passion in life was not engineering, and that the part of my brain that comprehended all the freaky math problems wasn’t fully functioning. However, going to Mines was not a total waste. I met some of my best friends here, and learned how to express empathy and compassion for them, character traits that I was not aware I possessed before meeting them. With the help of my friends, combined with the perseverance I had cultivated through cross country running, I managed to land on the Dean’s List both semesters I spent at the college. I also developed a sense of humility, and realized that I am not the best at everything, no matter what my mom tells me (but I’ll always be her special snowflake).
Baby dino at the School of Mines– we liked to put gloves on it.
My journey of learning has not always been pleasant, and has sometimes been downright painful, but has been important for me in developing my work ethic, my senses of humility and respect, and my compassion and empathy. I have also developed an intrinsic urge to ask, “why?” and find out the reasons that the world behaves the way that it does. So far, I am proud of where my journey of learning has taken me in life, and I am excited to see where it will take me in the future.