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Looking Beyond What You Can See

By Sierra Dixon, college adviser for North Duplin High in Duplin County

As if it isn’t enough to be a student in a global pandemic, our students are fighting through so many layers of daily struggles. As a second year adviser, you would think that I may have learned my lesson in this regard last year. Well friends, I guess that’s why they say we don’t get paid to think. I am naturally a very optimistic person. I always try to hope for the best, and that is a personality trait that somehow also creeps into my advising. Optimism often blinds me of seeing the reality that many of the students I serve are dealing with grueling life situations. Optimism causes me to expect my students to enjoy a life of bliss. It causes me to be confused when they expose anything other than that bliss. 

If I stopped my advising at only what I could see, I would miss the student that is grieving over a lost parent. I would probably miss seeing the student that is a caretaker for their parent that has no mobility. I don’t think my eyes alone would allow me to see the student that deals with extreme test anxiety. I would probably even miss the student that has lost multiple friends to fatal tragedies. I am pretty sure I would even miss the student that has been through brain surgery and had to learn how to do life all over again. You see, these are the situations that my students share with me. These are the situations that optimism sometimes can’t overcome. 

It is so easy to get caught up in the daily routine of just trying to hold student meetings, conduct classroom presentations or even parent conferences. After all, this is how we’re supposed to serve our students, right? This is what we’re told moves the college access needle. Well, I am learning it becomes a lot easier to serve our students, when we can truly see our students. 

It’s imperative to truly see our students beyond their GPA, beyond their test scores and even beyond their day-to-day classroom performance. We have to be able to see their stories. One of my favorite parts of advising is learning what my students have conquered and triumphed. This isn’t just my favorite part of the work because I enjoy a good story. As much as I do enjoy listening to a good story, more importantly I enjoy teaching my students to see themselves as the overcomers and the conquerors that they truly are. I enjoy advising them with a fresh lens daily; as I learn, more and more how to look beyond what I can see.