By Sabrina Bartels – Looking back on my life, there are several authors that have created stories which have had a significant impact on me. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks taught me about the power of true love. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch taught me the importance of living every day to the fullest. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo showed me the power of faith and destiny; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen stressed independence as a young woman. I could go on for pages and pages about wonderful books I’ve read, but one particular author not only inspired me with the novels she wrote, but on a personal note as well. That person is J.K. Rowling.
Let me start by saying that I LOVE the Harry Potter novels. I was 11 when the books first came out, and essentially grew up with the main characters. At first, I saw the books as great stories about a kid learning about himself and going through a lot of similar things I went through (while I did not get to go to a magical school, I do remember being very angsty, just like Harry was in book 5.) Now that I’m older, and still reread the books, I see the important lessons I learned: the dangers of prejudice, the importance of family, the strength of friendship, and the power of forgiveness. Not to mention that J.K. Rowling’s personal life was an inspiration in itself; she wrote Harry Potter as a struggling single mom who thought she had fallen to the lowest of lows.
Recently, J.K. Rowling confessed that she kept her first rejection letters from Harry Potter and put it on her kitchen wall. She then shared it on Twitter to help inspire others. She said that keeping that rejection letter reminded her that she “had nothing to lose and sometimes, that makes you brave enough to try.” For me, seeing a rejection letter would be a constant taunt that I was not good enough. J.K. Rowling used it as motivation to keep pushing, keep trying, and keep working harder. She persevered through it all and came out with a story that will be told by generations to come.
I find this so inspirational for many reasons, but a big one involves the students I work with. Now that they are getting closer to high school, they are finding that their coursework is getting more and more challenging. Some of my students have never truly struggled before to understand a concept; now, they find themselves somewhat lost in higher level math, reading, and writing. And while some of my kids listen to my “this gives you an opportunity to grow” speech, some are so frustrated with themselves that they shut down.
One student in particular was in tears when she was unable to solve an equation. She told me she was dumb, and that she would clearly never understand algebra. As I tried to help her, she repeated that she would never understand it, gave up, and walked out of my office.
I hope my students are able to look at J.K. Rowling’s courage, and perseverance, and take heart in it. Just because they fell the first time, does not mean that they have to give up. They can succeed, so long as they pick themselves back up and keep trying. I have faith in each and every one of my students to do well, succeed, and live a wonderful life, just like J.K. Rowling had faith in her story and her characters. Had she given up when she received that first letter, I would’ve never been able to read Harry Potter or any of the wonderful novels she has penned since.
So now that break is over, I’m going to making a poster for my office with one of my favorite quotes on it: “The greatest joy is not in never falling, but in rising each time you fall.” – Confucius. I don’t have too many rejection letters to hang up, since I trashed all of mine. But maybe the quote and the story of J.K. Rowling will be enough to inspire my students!