Metta Dael on Living with Purpose and Learning from an 8-Year-Old

Noodle Expert Metta Dael discusses why she'd love to be able to see the world through her young niece's eyes, the transformative effect of attending boarding school, and the importance of seeing Tuvalu before it disappears into the ocean.

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

I would probably pick my 8-year-old niece to be my teacher. She's a young kid of color who is currently in public school. She doesn't have strong math skills, but has strong reading skills. I'd love for her to teach me about how she learns best and understand how her struggles with math may impede her learning in other subjects. She's an incredible advocate for herself and has often helped other students find the words to express themselves when they are frustrated. That said, she can't quite explain what she has trouble with in math, but can let me know the ways her teacher teachers her things so they make sense. Hopefully, looking through her eyes would make me a better educator.

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

A friend once told me that I should live every day with a purpose. I had to make sure that I accomplished something each day that would have a positive impact on my surrounding community or world. Thinking and living with a purpose has changed not only the way I interact with people on a daily basis, but also how I approach my job.

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

This is a hard question to answer. There are so many wonderful places in the world. I would actually suggest finding a country that may disappear soon. For instance, due to climate changes and rising water, some scientists say Tuvalu, a small country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is in danger of sinking into the ocean in the next 50 years. Of course I would also want a student to experience the history of Italy, the greatness of Glacier National Park, and the people of Nepal, but even more important to me is for someone to go see something that we may lose in our lifetime.

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

School was never difficult for me — socially or academically — in my early schooling years. When I began high school, I didn't expect the academic demands to be so different. I also wasn't quite ready to begin again at the bottom of the social ladder as a freshman. Let's just say, the first semester of school didn't bode very well. I had become complacent in my education and l learned the dangers of being too comfortable. It took me over a year to orient myself and get on the right track academically. I figured out that I had to constantly challenge myself to grow and not necessarily look for others to push me to become a stronger learner.

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

I attended a boarding school that had profound impact on me. It not only opened my eyes, but put into perspective the power of an educator, the wonder of learning, and the impact of kindness. As an admissions counselor, I look at my job as being a gardener, equating each student to a flower. I have the wonderful task of selecting students to come into our program, then I get to watch how the community helps them grow.

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