Noodle Expert Amanda Ronan shares what she could learn from Björk and how she was able to give up the Olympic sport of worrying.
Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?
I would love to spend a year learning from Björk, the Icelandic singer, musician, and performer. To me, she embodies what it means to be an artist — staying true to her vision, pushing herself to grow, and worrying about commercial success. I would study her creative process, see how she balances creation and commitment, and find out what drives her to keep evolving her style.
What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?
If worrying was an Olympic sport, I’d be fierce competition. One time, when I was worrying about something I’d done in the past or anxious about something to come, a friend reminded me of the Buddha’s quote, “Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” I think about that when I start putting too much emphasis on anything other than what’s happening right now. I think it’s helped me to forgive others and myself more readily and to live with a little more spontaneity.
Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?
This is a tough question — the world is full of so many beautiful places. The Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico is at the top of my recommendation list. The area is tropical and rich with history. Students can visit Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza and Tulum, explore jungles, and experience the picturesque waters of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?
When I was a senior in high school, I was able to attend a local university, and the classes I took counted for both my high school requirements and as transferable college credits. My high school required four years of science, and seniors were supposed to take physics — so I signed up for it at the university. Though I'd preferred English to chemistry, I'd always done well in school, and science classes were no exception. Until physics.
I knew, sitting in that lecture hall on the first day of class, that I was woefully unprepared for college-level physics. I tried to do the assigned reading and could not make heads or tails of what the textbook said. Luckily, there was a lab component to the class where we experienced tangible examples of the textbook material. Because the lab factored into our grade, I squeaked by with a C-, which was the lowest acceptable grade to pass the class and get credit towards graduating high school.
Since I'd been so sure that I was a good student, I didn't bother to try to get help. I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness — that it meant that I wasn't "smart." Nearly missing out on graduating, after being at the top of my class, was a great wakeup call. I started visiting professors during office hours and joining study groups. I'd learned that there is no shame in asking for help. Admitting what you don't know is a smart move.
Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?
I started teaching after college for a lot of reasons. One was that I thought I could use the summer break to travel and volunteer at archaeological sites (archaeology was my major in college). I quickly learned, though, that summers would be reserved for one of three things: teaching summer school, taking professional development courses, or trying to fit all of my medical, dental, and automotive appointments into a six-week timeframe.
The depths of the relationships I formed with students and their families also surprised me. I got invited to birthday parties and quinceañeras and all kinds of special events. When I did home visits, I was able to see my students’ family dynamics in action. It really helped me to better understand them, and they loved seeing me outside of the classroom.