By Sean Ronan ’20
We all have goals that we wish to accomplish: getting perfect scores on exams, having the perfect job and a large income, a beautiful home, a family, and being able to travel all over the world. However, it is only through diligence and taking responsibility that you unlock the doors to success. Like the old saying goes, you can only “gain through pain.” You must be dedicated and willing to face the challenges that will come your way.
In elementary and middle school, I faced many challenges. Because I didn’t listen to my English teacher telling me to read at home, I had a difficult time going up reading levels: when my 5th grade classmates were on level Z, I was stuck on level N. I remember being disappointed in myself after hearing from my teacher that I hadn’t improved. To this day, I still struggle with reading comprehension. I also struggled in math class. Because I refused to spend my time after school practicing what I had learned in school, I was put into an additional math class and a study skills class to better my grades. I was also given an IEP that allowed me extra time and a lector for regular and standardized exams.
Throughout those years, the many teachers that I had, including my parents, sacrificed their time (and money) so that they could work with me one-on-one inside and outside of school. I credit my teachers and parents who instilled in me the importance of responsibility and hard work.
6th grade was the last time that I attended a study skills class, reading class or additional math class. Because I showed my teachers great academic improvement, they suggested that I was able to do without the extra classes.
Since then, I have been in the honor roll program for six consecutive years and have maintained at least a 92 average in all of my years of middle and high school, as opposed to the multiple failing grades that I accrued during my elementary years.
I spend an extensive amount of time every night — during weekdays and weekends — completing homework assignments and preparing and studying for exams. Because of my prevailing difficulties in learning, it takes me more time to complete assignments and to prepare for assessments when it would take others half the amount of time.
In Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man, Pope explains that “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” As I grew up, I began to recognize how critical it is to do things that will enrich the mind — especially because of my learning difficulties. Instead of playing games and watching TV shows and YouTube videos mindlessly, I spend my time writing for the school newspaper after school and I spend my free time reading articles and books on politics, or watching videos that answer the many curious questions that I have.
My sister, Emily, a sophomore in high school, has been facing difficulties in learning since she was born, and was placed in special education, reading, speech and study skills classes. Like me, she works tirelessly, for many hours during the week, to enhance her knowledge. Every day, I am a mentor to my sister. If she is having difficulty with her homework, I set aside time so that I can help her and I never walk away without first knowing that she’s got it. Her teachers have been by her side to help her for many hours after school and on the weekends.
But there comes a time when you will be left on your own to “figure it out yourself.” Using the suggestions that myself and her teachers have provided my sister, my sister knows that she must spend more time reviewing for exams by creating study guides and flashcards on her own. Sometimes she gives up and becomes tired of having to put so much effort into exams, but I am always there to lead her back on the right path.
When you know you have prepared as thoroughly as you can for exams but still see an “F” on your report card or a comment on a progress report that says “Needs Improvement”, it is easy to become distraught and give up. But, my mother only hopes that my sister and I do our best — that’s all that matters.
Having crossed big barriers in my academic life, I know that it is through hard work that you will be rewarded. These barriers made me diligent, responsible and reliable.
But I am also critical. It was in failing that I was fueled to learn the “right way” towards success in my academic life. We should use that same fuel to make changes in the world. I am critical of individuals that have the power to make a change, but settle on doing the bare minimum.
Students shouldn’t be left in the dark by teachers who might want to rush home. Teachers should be open to sacrifice their time for students. Similarly, politicians should look at the issues we face locally or nationally and be there to listen to the constituents they represent in order to make policy to effect change for our benefit – not just for the politician’s benefit. In a time of failure, a coach should look at what he himself can do in order to lift up his teammates.
Conversely, players should work with each other to better their play. Do you work out when you need to? Train even more than you have to? And, we students shouldn’t blame the people we answer to – the teachers and administrators and our parents – but instead look at what we can do for the betterment of ourselves and our school and our society. Work harder. Do more. Don’t point fingers, unless you’re pointing at the mirror.
We have no one to blame but ourselves for the choices we make in life. We should remember the responsibilities we have as individuals to, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
But… what do I know?
By Sean Ronan ’20