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In fourth grade my father told me I should be a lawyer. I remember a period of weeks I entertained the only other profession I have ever considered. By the time I taught 5th graders for Junior Achievement in high school I was a teacher.
As the oldest sibling I remember my mother reading to me, a lot. That translated to me being an early and avid reader. My father completed his undergraduate degree in education while I was a toddler. Based on how I interacted with all children when I was completing my undergraduate degree I have a hunch I was my father’s guinea pig in the best possible sense. I know these things contributed to my school success.
That could be enough.
I could “do school” well and so could be a good teacher.
But, there is more….
Education can be many things, and one of them is social justice.
Education can be many things, and one of them is social justice. My school and teachers were part of a network which raised me to meet my potential. Without their intervention at key moments on my educational time line I may have missed my calling, not for lack of the ability to “do school,” but lack of other resources. And by lifting me out of some place I did not want to stay, it makes me want to help other students through that same challenge.
In 6th grade I had a teacher pull me out into the hallway and ask which fall sport I was signing up for in 7th grade. I chose an individual sport, cross country. I contribute a great deal of my momentum though the rest of school to that decision. Students who have never experienced immediate positive feedback from hard work are often delighted when sports offer that often foreign experience. Even the negative reinforcement from lack of hard work are exciting because the capability to turn the situation rests with the student – sometimes that is the first thing a student from certain backgrounds have been able to control.
Looking back, as an adult and a school system employee, I call special attention to the fact that I experienced success in an individual sport; I do not think I would have had the same success in a team sport setting. I observe students act out their parents social rankings among themselves. I believe I would not have had the imagination to think beyond the temporary nature of: middle school, social standings, prior experience in the current activity. I observe adults coordinating these activities enjoy prior connections and prior participation equals student confidence. A sport where there is no bench, a sport where another person is not regulating participation, a sport where the best performance wins is always a better choice for a student who needs immediate feedback.
I continued to excel in individual sports and acquired connections through coaches which would help me reach college in a timely fashion. My coach arranged for someone to help me complete my financial aid paperwork for college. My athletic director counseled me on colleges, which ones were the best education colleges. I worked in the superintendent’s office and he had me over to his home to babysit his children. Countless parents kept me over to their houses for back-to-back days. My coach and I talked about when I would come back to the district to teach and how I wanted to coach the team after him. I kept up my end too, I stayed out of trouble and had good grades, but this institution of the school system, or the community within it, raised me up to my potential which might have remained just out of reach for me without their nudges at just the right time, in just the right direction for me.
I want to pay that back and then some.
I am in education because I want to pay that back and then some. Those people took notice, took time, and made all the difference in how fulfilled I am today. It was more than their job, it must have been their calling. Saying thanks just isn’t enough.