As an eighth-year teacher in a small Vermont high school, I have students that ask me every week: “What is college like?” I explain to them that the key to success in college is self discipline and time management. Most of my students look at me like I am crazy and then promptly ask me about the social life of college. I tell them that I had the “typical college experience” and let their imaginations wander. However, looking back on my “typical college experience,” I would say that it was anything but typical. The connections that I made at Castleton have led me down a long and winding road, one that was unanticipated, yet eventful and necessary for the success I now experience in my life.
When I first arrived at Castleton I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after college. I imagine most people were in the same boat. Making my way to and from classes each day, I often wondered and asked myself “What am I doing here and why am I doing this?”
What got me through these confusing and intimidating times were the people I made connections with. Whether it was a friend, professor, or coach, it was ultimately my connections at Castleton that guided me to be an educator. After a brief evaluation of my high school transcript, anyone could identify that I was not the pillar of academia. I was an average kid with average grades who wanted nothing to do with high school after I graduated.
At that time, there were certainly no thoughts of becoming a teacher in the future, not to mention a high school teacher. My mindset changed, however, once I entered Castleton. The people who entered my life invested time into going after my best and pushed me to strive for greater goals and assisted me in setting goals that were perhaps higher than I thought I could achieve.
The connections I made with people at Castleton gave me the courage to go after something greater in my life; a life that involved thinking about others and always giving 110 percent. Among those who left a lasting stamp on my life is former Castleton men’s soccer Coach Phil Rogers, who instilled in my team, “don’t get by, get better!”
Those are words I learned to live by in soccer, that I try to live by today, and I attempt to plant into the brains of my students in the classroom and on the playing field. It is an understatement to say that soccer was an important aspect of my college career. In reality, it was experiences on the soccer field that taught me the value of teamwork, determination, and the possibility of achieving goals that many thought were unattainable.
Notwithstanding, the information and experiences I had the benefit of gaining within the classrooms at Castleton, it was in fact the experiences on the soccer field that have been a major reason why I have enjoyed eight years of teaching and why many of the teams I have coached have been successful.
They, whoever they are, say that education is wasted on the youth. Many people quickly disregard such statement, but looking back on my experiences I see the truth in this statement. In my life, it wasn’t until I entered the classrooms at Castleton that I met professors who helped me develop a curiosity for learning – at least this was the first time I allowed professors to help me enjoy learning.
For example, I remember going on a trip to Italy when I was in 10th grade. I saw many wonderful works of art: the Statue of David, the Sistine Chapel and the Leaning Tower of Pisa just to name a few. However, I passed by these treasures like yesterdays newspaper. In contrast, during my second year at Castleton, I took Introduction to Art History where the works of art that I saw in Italy reappeared on slides shown to us on a projector. The professor provided us with fabulous information about the background and historical significance of each piece of art.
I quickly thought to myself, I have seen these works of art before, and then immediately realized that I did not appreciate the experience of seeing them in person. Until this point in my life I never realized how lucky I was to have such an experience and that most people in the world did not have this kind of opportunity. It was my education at Castleton that made me respect and cherish the experiences I had and those that were to come in my life.
The lessons that I learned and the connections that I made at Castleton made me realize that maybe being a teacher was not such a bad idea. The thought even has crossed my mind that I could inspire kids, just as the people at Castleton inspired me. On a daily basis, I use the lessons I learned all those years ago in my classroom and on the sports fields. I feel that the concepts of enjoying learning and appreciating experiences in life, across generations, need to be passed on to kids I teach.
I try to do this every day as I teach Social Studies at Long Trail School in Dorset, Vermont. Thus, it is at Castleton where the “typical college experience” turned into a transformation of me as a student and as a person.