Positive Blog

April 21, 2016

“YOU inspire me!”

True story: Outside of Positive4Girls, I teach 8th grade language arts (reading and writing) at a pretty cool school.

8th grade is hard, right? The academic rigor is rising, you have to start thinking about not only high school, but college! Yikes! What’s your 4-year plan? What’s your post-high school plan?? What’s your LIFE plan?? You wonder if you’re attractive, you wonder what’s “wrong” with you, you wonder if your zits will ever go away, you wonder if you can make the athletic team, you wonder if that boy (or girl) likes you, you wonder if you’re wearing the “right” clothes, you wonder if you’re too fat or too skinny, you wonder if that mean kid is going to hurt your feelings today, you wonder if you’re going to pass the test, you wonder what you’re going to do with your life. Geesh! That’s a lot of wonders!

All this is true, but hold on a minute. 8th grade is hard for teachers, too! We have to follow a specific curriculum, plan lessons every day, grade papers (there’s no way to do this during the school day, so this happens early in the morning before students arrive, late in the afternoon/evening after students leave, and at home on evenings and weekends), account for every student meeting every grade level standard, try to motivate kids who absolutely do NOT want to work, contact parents, attend meetings, chaperone after-school events, discipline students, teach students how to use manners and be respectful to others, and the list goes on.

Needless to say, some days are hard. Really hard. Some days it’s a struggle to remember why we decided on the teaching profession in the first place. We ask ourselves, “Am I really making a difference?” Because the bottom line is, we decided to become teachers because we hope to make a difference in children’s lives.

Then we have the days when, instead of inspiring our students, they inspire us. They. Inspire. Us. Today was one of those days for me. Today, I am very thankful to be a teacher and have the privilege to know whole bunches of wonderful kids.

Today, my students inspired me. One group of students has taken the steps to make a positive impact in our world; they are raising funds to bring water purifiers to communities across the globe that desperately need clean water to drink, cook with, and bathe in. One student stayed after school to talk with me about his action plan to provide transition housing and skill-building for homeless people in our community. One student stayed after school to work really hard to bring up her grades in my class and her other classes, and a friend of hers stayed with her for moral support. Several of my students smiled and said “hi” to people who they’re not even friends with! Many of my students are recycling and conserving water to help protect our environment.

These kids are change-makers. They are changing the world. Sometimes, as a teacher, I just have to veer away from the lesson plans to teach real life lessons. My real life lesson today? YOU can change the world. Every day, YOU can change the world. Yes, YOU. You don’t have to do great big things like taking ten trips to Africa to build an entire school, or donating a gazillion dollars so the rainforests will thrive. That would be pretty cool, but if you spend $10 to purchase a Rafiki bracelet at Walgreens, PacSun, or www.metowe.com, you are helping women in Kenya make an income for their families and helping Kenyan children get an education. If you raise $30 to provide a bag of dog food to an animal shelter, you are feeding all the dogs for one meal. If you sit next to someone you don’t normally sit next to and ask them how their day is going, you are making that someone feel like someone cares.

Be a change-maker. Be someone who inspires people. Be someone who knows that YOU – yes, you! – can make a positive impact on our world every single day.

xoxo ~ Kirsten

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“And her heart was full to bursting with the abundance of love she’d received”

…and her heart was full to bursting…

One year ago, a quiet young girl wrote me a letter I will never forget. We’ll call her “Adele”, as in “Hello from the other side” Adele.

Her words: “…you make me feel confident…,” “…you make me happy when you talk to me and look me in the eye…” Her words still bring tears to my eyes. I had no idea she felt that way or that I had an impact on her.  Her words helped me realize that I was not “just” a teacher, that I was made for something even bigger than teaching kids about reading and writing and science and social studies and math. Her words made my life expand. Her words opened my eyes and my heart and – ultimately – my soul.

Her words gave birth to Positive4Girls.

“…and her heart was full to bursting…”

Now, a year later, I’m at a crossroads as I struggle to find a balance between my work as a teacher and my “work”… as a…“teacher”.

On Instagram, my easiest (hence my biggest) platform, Positive4Girls now has over 4,000 followers, which means I’m potentially reaching 4,000 people with my positive messages. I led a Positive4Girls day camp for one week last summer, which was a great way for me to get my feet wet and learn what might work and what might not. Seven girls attended and we all grew from the experience. I planned a follow-up community service project after the day camp, and that fell through because I went back to my teaching job and dropped the ball. I planned a Saturday workshop in the fall. When I didn’t move forward with that, I planned a Saturday workshop in January. Didn’t hear anything about those? Well, that’s because I didn’t make them happen.

Reflecting on the past year, I can make lots of excuses for not growing the Positive4Girls mission (We help teen and pre-teen girls develop a sense of self-worth and navigate everyday life through kindness, true beauty, strength, gratitude, and purpose.). I’m back at my full-time job of teaching; I’m too tired when I get home; I struggle to balance my job and my passion; I need to focus on my family during what little time I have at home in the evenings (okay, this is actually very important to me!); I’m not sure what to do next; maybe nobody will attend; maybe I’ll be terrible at running a workshop; maybe I’ll be terrible at speaking and nobody will care what I have to say. The list can continue but really, who wants it to?

The bottom line comes back to “Adele”, whose words continue to prod me from the other side. I make her feel confident. I make her happy when I talk to her and look her in the eye. This still fills my heart. This is still why I created Positive4Girls and it’s still why Positive4Girls will grow and grow to reach more and more young girls who need someone to make them feel confident. That is my purpose. That is why I am here. That is why my heart is full to bursting.