Friday, November 16, 2012

My Day with some Fifth Graders...

Last year, I had the honor of speaking to my first set of elementary kids when one of my teacher friends asked me to come speak to her kids during the "Great American Teach-In" She teaches fifth grade at a school in a low income area where the population is predominately African American and Hispanic. I was very excited to have this opportunity, because I feel so deeply that these are the kids who need inspiration the most... being someone who wants to make a difference in this world, I figured minds that were swallowed up by negative circumstances would be a great place to start.

I remember going into the school; here I was this "pretty white girl" (which one girl whispered to her friend not realizing I heard her) dressed up in a dress and heels, driving over an hour to get there and taking time out of my busy day to come speak to them, because many of them did not have parents that would. I remember planning my "speech" trying to consider how to present my career as a makeup artist and stylist and make it interesting for the boys in the class.

I introduced myself, and started my presentation. I began by asking three questions... "Who likes makeup and pretty hairstyles?"(girl hands raised) "Who likes pretty girls?" (girl hands went down boy hands went up) and "Who likes scary movies?" (I got a nice mixture of both) I then said, "okay then I think I have something for everyone! I proceeded in talking about my career and showing them my carefully constructed power point presentation that I did to stay on track. It went well but I wanted to open up wide on this bunch as I sat there reading their young impressionable faces.

I began to talk about self esteem, that it had a lot to do with why I do what I do for a living and went off on an inspirational tangent. I left the class after showing them how to create and open wound with lash glue, black eyeliner and red lip gloss and I felt amazing... Like I had reached a few of them with my words. I was still writing and tweaking my book at this time and the overall experience was so good that I decided that THIS was who I wanted to speak to... THIS was the audience where I could make the biggest difference.

A few weeks later, I received an abundance of heartfelt thank you notes from this class. Each child took the time to not only make me a random thank you but each of them put heart into their cards. I cried like a blubbery little baby as I read each and every one.

This year, my daughter Baleigh is in fifth grade... and I spoke at her school yesterday. Although a much different audience, the experience was more of the same. She asked me to talk about my book and how I am an "author" because I presume that she wanted to show me off to her classmates... which I thought was cute. I went in knowing that my entire speech would be on self-esteem, bullying, goal setting and dream crushers. I wanted to impress upon these little minds that regardless of what anyone says to you... if you have a dream, a goal that you want to reach it is possible if you believe in yourself and never take your mind off of what you want.

As I was talking about my book, I shared some of my life with them, I spoke of how I was bullied, how people were not very nice to me, how some of the people closest to me, some being family said I could not accomplish my dreams and goals that I had set out to accomplish. I then told them that I did it anyway with MANY obstacles along the way. I did this to gain their trust so that they would let their guards down. I then asked who had been bullied before; more than half the class raised their hand. I asked who felt like they could not reach goals that they hoped for; almost all of them raised their hands.

I went around the room and asked what goals they had and was so inspired by their answers. Major league baseball players ruled the room, one girl wanted to be a brain surgeon, and another wanted to be a marine biologist AFTER his major league soccer career was over. I then came to one little guy, a heavy set young man with a cute smile. When I asked him what his goal was I almost cried... in front of the entire class he said that he hoped to find a cure for pet allergies so that he could have another dog and shared that he had to get rid of his black lab because he was allergic to his dander. I told him that was an AWESOME goal and I loved the heart that went into it. A big smile came over his sad little face.

I talked some more about words... how they can help someone or hurt someone, and how they should always be careful with theirs. Just before ending my presentation by showing them the portfolio of my work on my website, I asked them to get a pen so they could write something down on the paper I had given them. I read them a quote I wrote straight from my book and asked them to write it down word for word:

"One person's words can change your life, your direction, and your belief in yourself"

I then said, Okay... now after that in REALLY BIG LETTERS write this...

"The only thing that matters is what I BELIEVE I can accomplish"

I left them with that thought and told them to put that sheet of paper somewhere they would see it every day. The cute little guy that missed his dog put it in the front of his agenda and smiled really big as he did.

I left this class feeling amazing... I felt like I had made a difference in more than one of them, and that makes everything I went through worth it!