Like so many other adults, I started out as a kid.
I was typical in a lot of ways. Being a girl whose companions were often her older brothers or a neighborhood full of boys, I became good at climbing trees, skateboarding, and baseball. On a skateboard or holding a bat at the plate at the bottom of the ninth, I was confident. I felt like I could handle — and even excel at — what I was doing.
But sitting at a school desk was often a different experience. I remember sitting back and scanning the other kids in the class, wondering why I couldn’t be more like them. How were they able to do their work so quickly? By the time I was Ally Nickerson’s age, I remember sitting at our dining room table, staring at my brother’s high school textbooks and wondering how I would ever get through. Like Ally, I wondered what would become of me.
Then, as a sixth-grader, I was placed in class with Mr. Christy, who would later serve as my model for Mr. Daniels. Little did I know he would change the path of my life. Why? Because he changed my perception — how I viewed myself — and that was so powerful.
My perception was that the other kids were just better. I learned later that they weren’t — being better at taking tests didn’t make them better; it just made them better test takers. But at first, I let those negative thoughts seep in. I began to assume that I wouldn’t be good at things, so I went through a time when I didn’t try as hard as I could. I just figured it didn’t matter.
However, Mr. Christy had confidence in me. He had me tutor younger kids. He handpicked books for me to read and helped me move out of the lowest reading group. He smiled when I walked into the room. After a while, I began to mirror his confidence in me and left his class ready to set the world on fire.
We all have both our special talents and areas where we need to work a bit harder. Honestly, I’ve learned much more from — and have been ultimately successful because of — my failures. Things will not always be easy; sometimes we do fail. But it isn’t failing that makes you a failure. It’s staying down that does. The ability to stand up, brush yourself off, and try again is a huge strength. It’s something that will take you very far in your life. Very far indeed. If you develop a habit of standing up and trying again, just imagine the phenomenal things that could be in store for you.
Thank you for picking up Fish in a Tree. I do hope you have enjoyed meeting Ally, Keisha, Albert, Mr. Daniels and the others.
And remember: Great minds don’t think alike.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of Brightly’s Book Club for Kids pick Fish in a Tree. Click here to learn more about the book, discover activities and tips for discussion inspired by Fish in a Tree, and join in on the reading fun.