Who I Am Makes A Difference: The Blue Ribbon Project

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This ribbon was given to me in my senior year of high school by my English teacher. At the time, I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders; my application for university needed finishing, finals were coming up, scholarship deadlines were looming and, most of all, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I felt an unyielding pressure that I needed to fulfill everyone’s expectations and I was confused about just what my potential was. My anxiety got so bad that I even began to seclude myself from my family. When my teacher gave this ribbon to me, it was like I was snapped back to reality. In that moment, I realized that those close to me just wanted me to be happy and that the world would not end through any mistakes that I make make; no matter anyone’s expectations of me, the only thing that mattered was that I was healthy, safe and happy. At the time, I was incredibly touched that my teacher gave this ribbon to me; it was a small gesture but it had a great impact on my life. This ribbon reinforced my self-confidence and made me realize that who I am–not who everyone wants me to be–is special and can make a difference.

Now, four years later and in university, I think back on the memory of receiving this ribbon fondly. Thus, upon thinking about what I wanted to write my blog about this week, I decided that I would do so on this ribbon. As such, I looked into the origin of this ribbon more and found this video.

When I think about what this ribbon did for me in high school, I cannot think of a better way to pass this positivity around in the classroom. There are days when students are so overwhelmed with all of their responsibilities and feel so unsure of themselves that they cannot gain perspective on their lives and the world around them. With this ribbon, it reminds you that who you are matters and that there are people around you who love you. This type of message is incredibly important as, in high school, students are still trying to figure out their futures and themselves, two processes that are not easy. Thus, in my future classroom, I hope that giving students these ribbons will give them newfound courage to pursue their dreams and be the person they want to be. I also think this ribbon giving would be a great school project to do because it shows students just how much a small gesture of appreciation can go; although we might not think what we do in someone else’s life could make much of a difference, this video shows that it could. Giving a ribbon to someone would be a good exercise in learning how to be kind people because as much as school is about learning academically, it is also about learning how to make a positive impression in society.

The video on this website also gives some testimony about how receiving a ribbon made a difference in students’ lives. Of course, it is not so much receiving the ribbon–I mean, it is just a ribbon–that is meaningful but how you got possession of it. Who was the person that chose to recognize you that day for the person you are? Was it a stranger or one of your classmates/co-workers? Being recognized by someone–no matter how well you know them–is a great feeling; I still remember how I felt upon receiving this ribbon and that was four years ago! Thus, I think this ribbon giving would be a great way not only to instil a sense of community in the classroom, but also to get students thinking about who they really appreciate in their lives and thereby establish better connections with those people.

It would be remiss not to acknowledge that the video on the blue ribbon’s website is a little, ahem, overdone; the blue ribbon movement is a business and therefore, it wants to sell its product. With the little gift of a ribbon, I do not believe that a student’s self confidence will completely transform and s/he will immediately feel at ease with him/herself.  But that is not to say that this gift of acknowledgement doesn’t make a step towards that. We all need little steps in life, to get to our goals, and this could be one of them. Like I said before, you never know what kind of impact you can make in another person’s life unless you go out there and DO it.

There are a lot of problems in today’s youth. On the blue ribbon’s home page, if you scroll down a bit to Problems, the statistics given are alarming. No matter how scary they may be, however, they need to be heard. Because, not only as an educator but also as a member of society, I and we have a responsibility to address these problems and ensure that today’s youth never entertain thoughts of suicide. You see stories like Amanda Todd’s and are just sickened by the thought that she didn’t think anyone would care if she took her own life. The ribbon project could be a step towards eliminating this.

If you wish to purchase some blue ribbons click here. It’s not so much about the blue ribbons, however, as it is about finding ways to instil positivity and a sense of community in your classroom and in society. Through this blog post, I hope I got you thinking about that. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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