Monday, January 12, 2015

My Kind of "Illinois State-ment"

In case you haven't checked out my bio, you should know that I am an incredibly proud Illinois State University alum. In case you haven't been following their athletics, you should know that ISU's football team played in the FCS Division 1 Football Championship this past Saturday against the 3 time defending National Champs- the NDSU Bison. And while the Redbirds fell to the Bison, the loss on the scoreboard did not show the true impact of the game and what happened next.

Today I wore one of my favorite Illinois State shirts to school. As a teacher, there are a lot of fellow Redbirds in my building and I wanted to show my support for the team that gave us a great season and more importantly, to the school that has gotten me where I am today.

But here's the best part. One of my students in a group (I am a reading specialist so I see small groups of students all day long) noticed the ISU logo on my shirt and said, "Oh, didn't they play over the weekend?" I replied that yes, they did play, and they lost in a hard fought game. Another student in the group says, "Why are you wearing the shirt then?" and I reply that I am wearing the shirt because I went to school there and I love them. To this, the first student says, "Oh I get it, so it doesn't matter that they lost." and then it hit me. Lots of articles have been published and lots of interviews have been recorded- about the historic season, about the nickels and dimes of every play and every detail, but this elementary student took only 2 minutes to realize what a true alumni feels on a daily basis. They may have lost the game, but it doesn't matter. They never gave up, they never backed down, and they taught everyone something about having pride in yourself.

Being the reading teacher, I had to turn this into a teachable moment. My very own "Illinois State-ment", a term that was coined from this football season. And here's when it hit me- it doesn't matter whether or not you are a struggling reader and it doesn't matter if you aren't at the same level as everyone else. What matters is, as I said above, that you never give up and never back down. That you have pride in who you are and who you will become.

So I explained to the students in my group that people in life are proud of things. For me, some things I am proud of are my family, my education, and my career. Ironically, they are all intertwined, seeing as I met my husband at ISU, we both graduated from ISU, and I am (and love being) a teacher- something ISU taught me how to do. 

I explained to them that in their lives, they control what they will be proud of and that their education is something that will always be important to them. So yeah, maybe they aren't the best reader right this minute- but if they take pride in their education and never give up, they can change that course. If they never back down from a challenge, they can and will succeed.

And right there is the take-away from this historic ISU football season. Not that they lost in the final game, but that they made it to the final game and left everything on the field. They never gave up, they never backed down, and in the end, they were ridiculously proud of themselves and all they had accomplished. 

All that's left is to offer a huge thank you to Illinois State University for not only making me the teacher I am today, but for also having such an impact on my life, then and now. There's something to be said about being proud of where you went to school, but I can tell you first-hand, nothing, and I mean nothing, feels better than being #redbirdproud.