Look At This Photograph
Although my title indicates a possible reference to a Nickelback song, this post is about much more than music. It’s about the power of photos.
Photos are keepsakes. My sister has more than 100 scrapbooks of photos in her house, chronicling her life, her children’s lives – and every person she has ever come into contact with. My photos, while valuable to me, sit in a big box in my basement, patiently waiting for my organized sister to take on the project.
Photos tell a story. Photos bring back memories. Photos encourage us to reflect and think critically about life. Reflection and critical thinking are at the core of my English Composition class this semester, which is why the first assignment of the semester asks my students to choose a photograph and write a brief narrative story either detailing what is happening in the photo, a memory that it stirs, or a reflection triggered from the photo.
I’m one of “those” teachers that strongly believes that if I’m going to ask my students do something, I should, too. So, my visual reflection assignment follows:
There are times in life when the world seems to be spinning out of control, times when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day, and times when a sense of loneliness is overwhelming – so much to do, so little time, and barely any energy to want to do anything. Then, in an instant, it seems that helping hands, words of encouragement, and even a simple gaze of acknowledgement comes out of nowhere and the inspiration and motivation to move forward is overflowing and encouraged.
As a returning, nontraditional student, single mom, and full-time reporter, I felt the weight of the world when I decided to return to college. I wanted to succeed and provide a better life for my children, I wanted to pursue a teaching career, follow my dreams, and maintain sanity at the same time. But, it felt like a powerful force kept getting in the way – bills, stress, lack of sleep, tough assignments, and the daily routine of dance lessons, soccer practice, and school activities. I felt torn and pulled in a thousand different directions.
I kept trudging along. I kept looking into my kids’ eyes and found the motivation, the desire to be someone they would be proud of in years to come. As hard as it was, I asked my family for help. My mom would bring over groceries when I least expected it and needed them the most. My sisters would pop in to occupy my kids and read my papers when I needed a second opinion. My aunts and uncles would offer encouragement and words of wisdom.
The day I graduated with my Masters’ degree was when the world seemed to stop. The frenzy of the months and years of school seemed to stand still and I was able to take in the peaceful calm of an accomplishment. I don’t remember the thrill of walking up on stage, tossing my cap in the air, or even the commencement speech.
What I remember is the crowd of friends and family waiting for me after the ceremony. More than anything, I remember the look on my daughter’s face when she saw me in my cap and gown – she was proud of me, she looked up to me, and most of all, her gaze showed me that the reward was worth the wait. The world never crashed or stopped spinning, but it did wait for me to catch up.
– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Aug. 29, 2009
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