Ashley Morris on "The Last Lecture" and the Best Antiques

Noodle Expert Ashley Morris talks about her love of Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" and the best antiques a person can find.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

Most students get bored of their teachers after the school year, but one year would not be enough for me if Randy Pausch was my teacher. Carnegie Mellon professor and author of "The Last Lecture," Randy Pausch is an inspirational educator. Although he was given only a short time to live after his cancer diagnosis, he lived every single second of the time that he had. After reading his book, I have learned more about family values, perseverance, and treasuring life's moments than I ever could have imagined.

Everyone has the capability to chase their childhood dreams, and through Randy's humor, charm, and ability to capture an audience, I learned to be true to myself and that anything is possible if you are willing to put in the effort. So even though I have already read his book and listened to his last lecture, I could spend an entire year listening and learning from Randy Paush; one of the most inspirational and kind-hearted men I have ever "known."

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

When I was little girl, my parents hung a picture on my bedroom wall that said "The best antiques are old friends." This never really resonated with me until I was older, and now its message speaks volumes. Making connections and forming friendships is so important in life. Some people say you'll meet your forever-friends in college, but for me I met mine in kindergarten. They have been by my side every step of my life, know me probably better than I know myself, and are true antiques in my life.

Forming friendships can be difficult, but it is essential to live a happy and fulfilled life. Celebrating birthdays, going on road trips, running in the park, and having a shoulder to cry on are true benefits of friendship. It is nice to seek out new people and make new connections, but for me, there is always comfort knowing I can call my friends from kindergarten who will be by my side as we grow old.

Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?

For a student who has never traveled before, I would send them to wherever their heritage stems from. I think it is extremely important for people to know their culture and where they come from. Knowing your own cultural beliefs can also help you understand other cultures, and because we live in such a diverse melting pot, I think that is one of the most beneficial qualities to possess.

Personally, I am of Irish and Italian descent, and going to Ireland and Italy is definitely on my bucket list. To learn about where my family came from before arriving in America, to see the landscape, to be among their people, and to eat their food would be an experience like no other. So, for all of those who have never traveled before, put your country of origin on your bucket list; not only will you learn about your heritage, but you will be open and aware to all the different cultures living among you everyday.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

On the second day of my junior year of high school, I was moved into honors chemistry. I am assuming this was mainly my decision, but to this day, I try to push that down into the dark caves of my memory. The class was the hardest I've taken, and I just could not seem to wrap my head around moles and conversions. I frantically took notes daily and was tutored by my older sister, but the content seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Honors chemistry was the only C I ever received on my report card, and to my high-achieving self, it was a devastating ego blow.

Looking back on the situation, however, it was a true learning experience. I managed to pull off a C in the most difficult class I have ever taken. I was average — and that was OK. I learned new study habits and acquired a diligent work ethic. I was challenged and grounded in honors chemistry, and I learned that everything I do in life will not be easy. So even though I cannot fathom why my 16-year-old self wanted to go into honors chemistry (maybe my friends were in the class?) I am grateful for the experience of failure and for not giving up.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher. I have always loved working with children, yet I could never decide what speciality to delve into within the education world. When I was told there was job security in special education, I quickly made my decision. Originally, I wanted to work with young students, so my first student teaching experience was in kindergarten. I worked with special needs children on learning their letters and numbers, and while this work was very gratifying, the dependence of a class of five-year-olds was not for me.

My next student teaching experience was in a high school as an English resource room teacher, and I easily found my niche. I enjoyed being able to converse with my students as young adults. They were inquisitive, stubborn, shy, rambunctious, and clever. They challenged me on a daily basis, and I was ready to start my career as a high school special education teacher.

Yet, my experience in the real world was not the same as my student teaching. As a special education teacher, the paperwork is overflowing, the IEP meetings are constant, and the emails are overwhelming. I find myself spending more time on ancillary duties than actually planning for my lessons and teaching my kids. I have come to learn that it is a necessary evil of the job, but if my 42-minute period of resource room English could somehow be multiplied, then I feel like I would be making a more meaningful impact on my students.

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