A small decision that had a big impact on my life

A small decision that had a big impact on my life

I recently learned about StoryWorth, a company that emails you writing prompts so you can write about your family memories over the course of one year and make a book out of it. I love this idea, but I already have my blog. I just wanted the writing prompts. Luckily for me, they post sample questions on the website.

Here is the one that I was drawn to today – What’s a small decision you made that had a big impact on your life? That is an easy one to answer. Here is the story.

In college, I started off as a double major in elementary education and sociology. I was not a fan of the education classes. I felt like I was being talked to like a child, and student teaching required me to be at an elementary school at 7:30am 5 days a week my junior year, which was in direct conflict of my very active social life. (I would like to add as an adult, I was embarrassed to write that last sentence). So, I dropped the education major and focused on my sociology studies. Random fact, one of my courses was the fall of soviet society. How cool that I got to study such an important sociological event right after it happened.

Fast forwarded to my spring semester senior year. I had already completed all of my required courses and was looking for a meaningful elective for my schedule. I stumbled onto a course on an overview of students with exceptionalities. I loved this course and looked forward to it every week. Learning about what affected brain development and how that impacted learning was fascinating.

I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, but being a grown up was fast approaching. So when the professor of the exceptionalities course passed out a flyer about a job at the Duke ADHD Program, I was interested. It was a 6 month position serving as a paraprofessional working with children ages 7-9 on the first longitudinal study comparing different treatments for ADHD. The MTA Study was a landmark study with sites all over the United States… in other words, a big deal.

I loved my first job out of college (except for the pay). I was really making a difference in the lives of children with ADHD. My position was for the summer and then following two students into their schools in the fall to model for the teachers what we did in our summer treatment program. One of my students was very oppositional and violent and was kicked out of his school one month into the school year. Keep in mind this was before the reauthorization of IDEA in 1997, so there were no procedural safeguards for students with challenging behaviors. My student was no longer in school, but I was paid on a grant for 3 more months. The Duke ADHD Program had to find something to do with me. I started helping out with assessments in the clinic and quickly figured out this was something I was good at.

Oh, and one of my initial trainers was a professor at NC State who recruited me to come to the graduate program in special education program. That connection led to me starting at NC State in 1998 and leaving in 2004 with a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction.

Now for the best connection of all based on that one small decision. The second year of the data collection phase of the study when I was well established as a research assistant in the clinic, a guy came to interview for the paraprofessional position. He was a DOOK graduate which made me not like him immediately, but he was great with kids and even ended up being a mentor for one of my students with autism that I worked with in graduate school. He thought he wanted to do pediatric medicine but ended up being a GI doctor… and my husband.

One small decision folks… wow. So many positive things came of it. What about you? Any small decisions that ended up being really important? Please share.

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