Why I Wish I Could Time Travel Back To 1st Grade

I remember the first time I made the decision to go against my teacher’s orders. It was Ms. Rays 1st grade class and there I was a little pig tailed, freckle faced future delinquent. I remember sitting there in those small little blue chairs at a table with 5 other eager 1st grade kids. We all had sheets to practice our handwriting, the same sheets we had been getting for a couple weeks now. I remember staring down at that paper; frustrated at myself for how off my writing was compared to the example on the sheet and to Carly Hunts perfectly crafted lettering next to me. This was bullshit. I had been giving handwriting a valiant effort over the past couple weeks and yet I just couldn’t get the neat technique. So I started skipping practice sheets and giving slim to minimum effort on my little white paper.

Once I discovered that I could half-ass assignments and pretty much get away with not doing exactly what the teacher said and how she said it, my slack off days began. Yes, my slacker mindset started in that little blue chair in that 1st grade classroom and has haunted me ever since that day. Not to say I was a complete failure throughout my grade school or high school years, but I definitely never gave my 100% effort in classes or in subjects that I didn’t care for. And trust me, there were many classes and subjects I didn’t care for. See it was very odd for me because as my education process developed I began to view my slacking as stupidity. And as most grade school kids do, I began to label myself as normal. See the way I saw it, there was the smart kids, the normal kids, the slow kids, and the kids that threw paper balls across the room and interrupted the teacher. I had always considered myself normal until 4th grade, because it was in 4th grade that I created my first piece of work in school that I considered above average. It was a project that asked us to write a poem answering the question who am I; and to illustrate a painting or design to go on a poster with the painting. I remember being so excited while creating this project. I recall the organic feeling of being proud at what I had wrote. Simply put, my poem rocked and was pretty deep for a 4th grade girl who had 4 different colored extensions in her hair. Next I remember having my poem on my big blank white sheet, and feeling such excitement because I now could create any type of art I wanted all surrounding my rocking poem. I painted bright colors, swirls, dots, lines and beautiful designs that matched the theme of my poem. A giant red rose was the final touch and my masterpiece was completed. I was so proud to show my parents on back to school night and they still to this day have that very work up in their bedroom.

Skip forward a couple years and the bright extensions had turned into bright t-shirts and neon eyeliner. Middle school was no easy task. Classes got harder, teachers got stricter, and the social life; oh god how the social life distracted me. My first boyfriend, talk of a cell phone was on the table, and girls had a lot to say about one another. Exciting as it was, I still felt little to no enthusiasm about school. So when my best friend Sarah Sterry and I joined together to take on the school science fair, things changed. We decided to do a project on the rate at which drivers stopped for pedestrians at our one and only cross walk we had for the school. Basically, Sarah and I had a blast working on it and began to develop a sense of responsibility because we were researching something that was going to be beneficial to our community. Well, we worked very hard on it and ended up winning a prize at the science fair, got nominated to speak at the school district conference about this crosswalk problem, and even making a follow up rap for our venture called “ The Crosswalk Song”. Still hasn’t been released yet, but its banger let me tell you. It felt amazing to have actually been successful and come out in the top of my class for something that I genuinely cared about. Doing well for my community and actually getting the opportunity to improve something for others felt even better.

Skip forward a couple years, I have now lost the crazy t-shirts and adopted black leggings and black eyeliner to match my rebellious 8th grade soul. I was in a history class with Tony Aries and everyone loved this guy. He was funny, treated us with a more mature mentality, and taught US History with direct passion, which helped me understand the material. It also helped that he played Jimi Hendrix all the time, and had a collection of multiple trinkets and funny animals on his desk. Ducks in swimsuits aside, this guy was simply a great teacher. With his personality and killer teaching style he attracted me to the subject in a way I had never been drawn to before. Lets just say I ended up getting the 2nd best grade in my class for my final test just before graduating 8th grade.

Three years or so had passed and I was now a senior in high school. A lot had happened up to this point in my personal life and school education. I had now figured out that I would be going to Whittier College in the fall on a music scholarship, just performed in my last high school show a couple months before, and had lost a lot of my good girl friends which sucked because senior year was suppose to be this grand final lap with my amigas. I was in a senior writing class with one of the best teachers I’ve had in my life, Mr.Kroesche. He had assigned us an annual senior project, which we were to present the last week of classes called, a senior statement. This was basically a 6 min time period where you had to write something about your life or your experiences up to this point. I was really looking forward to this project and oh yes; I had a lot to say. I decided to do what was most natural for me and that was to write a short overview of my life explaining who and why I am Maggie Niemann, and then of course I had to write a song. My song was called “White Leather Jacket”, it depicted my need to get out of this small town and go pursue what I loved in the city where I was moving. The day I presented my statement was amazing. I sang an original song in front of people for the first time, I let myself be vulnerable to a class full of my peers, and I declared my dreams and hopes out loud. It sounds very cheesy but truthfully I had never felt freer. This project was so authentic and easy for me to dive into because I got to do what I loved.

So, my five principles of learning. They were not always easy to identify, in fact it was very hard for me to get to a point where I knew what I wanted out of education and how to get it. However; that’s why I’m here in WSP, to finally take a hold of my five principals and have them lead me to the life I want for myself. Firstly, I need to establish personal work ethic. I wish future Maggie could’ve just sat down with 1st grade Maggie and said, “Hey don’t worry about that line, start again, go slower and take your time”. I must have a sense of work ethic when it comes to my studies, or else I slack and get distracted. Secondly, I must be able to express myself and be creative in whatever I’m learning. When I can express myself and do so creatively, that is where I always thrive just like 4th grade Maggie did in her poem and painting. Thirdly, I must feel as though what I’m learning benefits the world around me somehow; or that I can use what I’m learning to give back. Feeling that pride in my community service efforts through my science project was one of the first times I knew I needed to be apart of a better cause that was bigger than myself. Giving back and doing good and doing well for the world is something I must be working towards. Fourthly, I must be inspired to care about the material I’m learning. And even better if a professor, its game over, can inspire me. I’m going to work my ass off till I get an A in that class, and you better believe I’m developing a personal relationship to make that said teacher a mentor for me. And lastly, my Fifth and final pillar; I must be learning or doing something that I love. In order for me to truly learn and gain the entire experience of a subject or class, I must love what I’m learning about. There’s no better way for my to enrich my education, then to be practicing that which I cannot help but work on and ask questions about. So there you have it folks, my five pillars or learning. Hope you enjoyed my first blog post and got to know me a little better.


Ta for now,

Maggie Niemann