Life at Ripon — Sara Driebel ’16

Chapter 2: Learning and Growing

[Editor’s Note: Chuchen Tan ’16, Sara Driebel ’16, and Jacob Sahr ’16 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their senior year experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life At Ripon!]

Most of us want to pretend that middle school never happened now that we have made it this far in our academic careers. It was a few years full of awkwardness, braces, probably the Jonas Brothers, and struggling to find out how to open a locker on the first try on the way to class. Although many of us tend to push this period of time far back in the recesses of our memories, I have learned – through Ripon’s education department – just how valuable the lessons we learn in middle school can be.

Each day I head to a middle school to observe and teach eighth grade students as part of my preparation for my upcoming student teaching semester in the spring. Through this experience, I have been lucky enough to be able to go back to this time and learn from it, rather than remembering only the fear of tardy slips and dodge ball failures. Before the age of fourteen, these students have managed to forge a remarkable understanding of the importance of their unique selves. I have discussed the colonies with a student who plans on becoming big shot director, planned the first Thanksgiving menu with the trivia master of the school, and debated about Salem’s witches with a self-proclaimed future “Mrs. Hunter Hayes.” Each student, though in a room of thirty faces, is incredibly unique, with his or her own background to bring to the table.

These students all use their varying strengths and passions to work together in creating strong classroom projects in ways that I think even those out of middle school should note. Working together as a group takes more than knowing just oneself; these students succeed because they know each other’s strengths as well. Leaders emerge to guide fellow students in the right direction, keep the group on track, and support new ideas. Middle school, though often depicted by many as a time of awkward change and social discomfort, thus has revealed itself to be a period of creative growth and cooperation not too far off from what we experience here at the College. These students won’t be sitting in on a three-hour night class or writing a seminar that culminates their entire academic career, but their skills and connections to each other are aspects that even college students should try to emulate.

My senior seminar project revolves around how children’s media from the Cold War was directed at encouraging academic paths with careers in math and sciences to foster a more competitive future for America. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but it is interesting how much of my research can be related to my findings through teaching at the middle school. Creativity, according to my research, is the key component in inventiveness and its importance far surpasses that of IQ or test scores. As the students delve deeper into their projects and grow more excited about their possibilities, their ideas flourish. These students are showing me how creativity can lead to a much deeper level of learning and enjoyment in the subject. It may be hard to get students jazzed about the Mayflower, but with a little creativity, students can succeed in ways they did not imagine!

Spending each day in the company of these students has prepared me for my future as an educator and reaffirmed my decision to become a teacher in every way. As the holiday season approaches, in addition to my amazing family, friends, and sassy puppy, I am thankful that my exposure to another part of education has opened up a whole new world to me beyond boy bands and stacking as many “Livestrong” bracelets on one arm as possible. I cannot wait to see where my adventures in education take me in the future, as the next time I write I will be beginning to officially student teach!

Sara Driebel ’16

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