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As a school counselor, I often feel like a sponge. I soak up the chaos around me, attempting to clean up the emotional spills. By the end of the day, I have absorbed more than I should have. I rarely take the time to ring out the excess before cleaning up another mess, so all I am is a soggy sponge... and let's face it, that is no use to anyone.
This, perhaps, overdramatic interpretation of my feelings leads me to an amazing novel and, dare I say, equally amazing film: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The main character, Charlie, is an introverted, intuitive, and intelligent high school freshman who is able to see those around him for who they really are.
When I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I knew I had to blog about it. Watching these thoughtfully-crafted characters experience the world made me think of my students. I have students like Charlie, who need time and support to open up. I have students like Sam, who have experienced some form of trauma and desperately need to connect. I have students like Patrick, who use humor to hide the depth of their struggles.
I also thought about my own experiences in school - those times when I felt completely alone, the times I just wanted to blend into the background. I think when we leave high school, regardless of what that experience was like, we forget how claustrophobic it felt. Life revolved around a petri dish of students, all floating within the barriers of the container. The moment those walls are removed, you finally see the world for all its possibilities. It's the fresh start you thought you'd get in high school, before you realized that your middle school years followed you.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a powerful reminder of the only world our students know. They haven't experienced life outside of the dish yet. In smaller elementary school settings (like mine), a student may only have 50 other students in their grade. What are the odds that 1 of those 50 would be a perfect friendship match? For some kids, our school pond is a little too small. The end result? The kids on the outside, the wallflowers, are reminded that they are different and, in some cases, believe their future will never improve, even after high school.
If nothing else, this film reminds us to look beyond the surface and see individuals for who they are. We all have our baggage, our struggles, our own journey that shaped our present.