Friday, February 28, 2014

Hate or Dire Need of Changing Perspective?

It happens to the best of us. We grow tired of something - a place, a person, a city, a friend - and we start to say things that we say we mean. But do we?

I had a professor "bash" my hometown once. It was a minor comment that passed by a lot of the class, but it struck me harshly. True, the stereotype of a lot of things in my hometown has a very deep negative connotation, but it's still home to me.

Cedartown is filled with the majority of "Rednecks". Then again, if anyone in the state of Georgia had any sense of looking around past city centers - most of the people who have always lived in the rural areas and have family history leading back to the civil war or earlier could be considered rednecks.

When people make a comment about how Cedartown is really poor and the people are dumb, I honestly want to take a stand (and not a music one either). True, Cedartown isn't the richest town - especially compared to Rome, Ga. However, there are some benefits to being a small town community that won't be found anywhere else.

1st. Find me one town that rallies behind a hurt athlete for not just a few days - but for over 4 months and continues to support him.

2nd. Find me a town that who's supportive of every single extracurricular activity in some form or fashion. Hometown heroes aren't millionaires. They are the students who are role models for younger kids. They are the everyday people who make a difference without ever realizing it - the first responders, teachers, and anyone who turns a bad day around.

3rd. Find me a town who's hopes ride with those who exceed and are willing to change the world. It's not shown a lot, and the road isn't easy. However, once someone is willing to prove that they want to do something to do something with their lives, eventually someone will find a door that will stay open to help him or her.

4th. Everyone knows everyone. You can't get hurt without everyone asking if you are alright and if you need something. You can't get away with a lie, and if they ask you something it's best to just say it like it is. Friends gathering together isn't just a secluded clic - everyone knows everyone so you find the biggest area to have bonfires, paint wars, etc. and meet up.

5th. The best part about Cedartown is that once you make it through high school there, you can overcome anything thrown at you. You learn not only how to work with people, you learn to understand them. You realize that money isn't needed to have a good time and it surely doesn't buy happiness.

After that professor called out my hometown, I thought and realized I can't hate a place that helped shape me the way that I am. Yeah, I didn't have some of the opportunities that might have been available if I lived in a "high class" area, but I learned lessons that I don't think I would have been able to learn anywhere else.

So next time you think that you hate something, what is it that you hate? Is it really that one thing, or is it your perspective?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Taking the road less traveled: Hard Work or Hard to Motivate?

Yesterday I posted on my Facebook account the following status:

"Thoughts of a college freshman:

What if for every dream we have inspired as a society, we helped become a reality? For the young Olympic watchers who want to one day have a gold medal of their own: why do we encourage them to dream this but then not put forth the effort to help them. Why is it that kids who dreamed of becoming leaders and changing the world are growing up and thinking "I can't because it's impossible."? We need to break the idea of hard meaning impossible. Just because something is hard, doesn't mean it can't be done. I challenge us as a society to stop working against dreams and show that roads less traveled aren't the easiest but they are far from impossible.

Who's to tell us what the human mind and body cannot accomplish?"

Now, let me expand on this...

It honestly kills me when I see people who I once went to school with who I remember saying that they wanted to be architects, lawyers, world class musicians, doctors, top of the line athletes, and change the world, end up doing one or some combination of the following: drop out of high school, drop out of college, claim "it's too hard" or say "I'm not smart enough". If you really want to achieve something, it's not going to get done by quoting and moving on to something easier - like getting a minimum wage job and saying "who needs an education" or "I'm not good enough to reach a goal."

Yet, this happens. It happens a lot. I grew up in a town much like the one that resembles the town of Coal Wood in the awesome movie "October Skies." While my hometown wasn't a coal mining town, the attitude was pretty much the same. A few people would make it out on a football scholarship. The rest would end up sticking around.

I'm not blaming a sole person for a lack of motivation for kids achieving goals. I am blaming society as a whole. We spend so much time telling kids they can be anything they want when they grow up. When they enter middle and high school, that mind set shifts. Many students become unmotivated through either financial setbacks, trying to "fit in" with a certain clic, or they honestly become lazy.

How can we prevent this lack of motivation in students? If you ask me, ask a student the first day of school what they want to be once they are "grown up." Have them set some long term goals. Then, don't just place those goals in a "I wasn't going to forget about you but I am going to" pile. Work with the students, help them find internships, projects, and additional materials that they can be a part of. If money is an issue, help them find scholarships. 

Don't ever tell someone "You can't do this because it would be too hard and I don't have the time to help you."

If you honestly don't have the time, ask the student if he or she would be willing to speak to someone else about the subject and direct them to that person. If it's too hard, let the student find that out themselves. Will power to achieve something is a strength that cannot be measured.

Next time a kid answers the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" with something that seems outrageous or that it would take a lot of work, don't say "It's too hard." Why? That kid has seen someone else do it and wants to get on that level. Whether it's winning a gold medal, being a musician, or becoming a lawyer, doctor, architect,  etc., who are we to shoot down someone's dreams?