By Molly Klein
I felt like I was at a funeral, not in English, my favorite subject. My peers grew more solemn with each of Ms. Ginsburg's steps. I saw circles in red, angry ink bleeding on papers as she passed out the first graded essays of the semester in Honors Junior English. Laughing faces turned into frowns. It took forever for her to reach me, returning a 72 on a piece about Who's Afraid of Post Blackness? This grade threw me as hard as my horse Braun had thrown me out of my tack.
Self Resuscitation! After falling, I have learned to get back in the saddle with a determined spirit. I grew up riding horses at New Canaan Mounted Troop, which instilled this spirit in me. I couldn't just show up, get on a pony, ride and leave. New Canaan students must take care of the facility as well as the horses, and my training was steeped in the barn's motto: "It is never the fault of the horse, always the rider." That lesson was now with me in Honors Junior English: I can't blame the teacher for my 72.
Seeing The Lesson: It was an October day that felt like December at the Ridgefield Horse Show. Braun can be very sensitive to conditions in the ring, and I should have known that the wind and rain would rattle him. The course was full of jumps and sharp turns, which I forced Braun to do as if it were a perfectly calm, sunny day. Approaching the end of the course, he took off at full speed and leapt into the air, throwing me hard onto the ground. As I hobbled out of the ring, I saw my trainer's disappointed face. She muttered the Troop motto as I led Braun to the trailer. She was right; I failed as a rider. I had not adapted my riding style to the conditions confronting Braun.
My Rules: Rather than blaming others, I live by the rule that I am most responsible for my fate. If my teacher or my horse bestow a tough lesson, it is something that I must learn. For me, disappointment is a signal that I have to take responsibility and fix whatever is going wrong in my life. Blaming others won't help me to grow as a student, athlete or person. Some classmates spent the year complaining about Ms. Ginsburg's tough grading. Despite temptations to join them, I was drawn to Ms. Ginsburg's enthusiasm and knew I could be a better writer by spending my free periods with her. By the time we read The Awakening, in the spring, I was bringing home 90's in Honors English.
Thrown Again: On the first day of my Personal Finance class I waited patiently for another girl to walk into the room, but the sea of boys continued to flow in. Our teacher told us to select a partner for creating stock portfolios, and no one would partner with me. I was left alone. I thought back to my travels through Turkey when I saw women in Burkas. The oppression was so foreign to me at the time. Now, the oppression became real. I was being treated differently because of my gender, and I was motivated even more to excel in the class full of boys. When selecting class usernames, I chose "onlygirl". It was a proud moment when the stocks I had carefully chosen had boosted my portfolio into first place.
Final Reflection: Why was I consistently strong in Personal Finance, but slow starting in English? I started English with the confidence that I bring to the stables. Being an underdog from the beginning in Personal Finance gave me a bit of a head start in knowing I needed to gear up for the challenge. Underdog or not, I value high expectations that compel growth; so thanks Braun, and Ms. Ginsburg.
Molly Klein, a graduate of Darien High School in Darien, Connecticut, will be a freshman at Colgate in the fall.