So, I promised a later post relating my experiences about school. I have been putting it off, because I am a little afraid to share this about myself. I realize that it’s not something I should be ashamed about since I have taken action to change my life, but it is still hard to put out there.
I grew up in a typical dysfunctional family (which, I believe may be the new normal *shrug*). I won’t go into details, because they are not all mine to share. However, let me tell you some of my experiences as they relate to school. When I was 13 I moved to a new state and obviously a new school. Thirteen was probably not the ideal age to make such a big move, but it is what it is. I began to seek out excuses to stay out of school because I felt like I was not well liked (probably my perception, not reality). Needless to say, I was “sick” a lot. This became a very hard habit to break once I reached high school, which brought on a reputation of a slacker and in general lazy student (not inaccurate).
So, I realize that I am the creator of my own problems, but there were some experiences that added to this snowball effect. I will get these bad experiences out of the way, and I will end with the good.
Two major events stand out more than others. Both of these occurred in my Junior year.
1. I had an English teacher who loved to use students as ‘examples’ of good and bad behavior. He frequently called these kids out over the course of the year. So, near the end of the year, March-ish I think, I came to school (remember, I was absent often). On the day that I was present, this English teacher decided to reveal the winner of a contest that he had apparently conducted earlier in the week. The question he posed was, “Predict how many days you think Stephanie has been absent over the course of the year?” I’m not proud that I was absent enough that this was even brought up, however, this teacher crossed a line (or many). The answer was 60-ish (again, I’m not proud), but what really upset me the most was that the winner got a prize — soda and candy… AND he said as a consolation to me, I could also have a soda and candy. I can’t even tell you how wrong this entire event was and how horribly this affected me.
2. Soon after the previous event, I decided that I was unwanted and a total failure, and that I should drop out of school. This was a thought process that was ongoing and not an onset of ONLY the previous event, however, it was a major stressor. Anyways, as a requirement for dropping out (funny that there are requirements) I had to chat with my counselor. I remember going into his office and thinking that if he could give me a good reason to stay I would try. He did not. He lectured me about drop out statistics (fear tactic), which made me more determined to prove him wrong. Then, he asked me what I thought I could possibly do with my life if I dropped out. I said, “I want to be a teacher.” He said, “That will NEVER happen. There are no teachers who were high school drop outs.” That determination level I felt before??? It now went through the roof. I was so upset, and I felt bullied. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I didn’t really want to drop out, but it seemed that the cards fell that way. I dropped out.
My mom told me that if I was going to live in her house then I had to get my GED, which I did immediately. Now, if I’m totally honest, I never really planned on being a teacher, it was just an idea that I threw out there on a whim when I was talking to this counselor. Fast forward a few years (like 8) and I was now married, had two kids, and had worked very hard to reach the ceiling in my company (corporate trainer/customer service supervisor). The rest I told you in my previous post.
However, the cool things that teachers had was not my only reason for becoming a teacher. I did have some really good experiences that helped me make that decision, and in combination with the bad things, the decision was really made for me. I knew what my calling was. I needed to be a good example for my kids and other kids that their bad decisions don’t have to define who they are, but that I will always be available to share my experience, strength, and hope to help them make the right decisions.
So, those good things:
1. In 7th grade, I had a really awesome Social Studies teacher who made learning really fun. We did all sorts of fun activities. I made so many friends in that class and looked forward to seeing these people everyday. She really worked hard to create a classroom community that made me feel safe and welcome, which I apparently really needed.
2. In 9th grade, I had an English teacher who gave me some amazing and helpful feedback on all of my papers. She gave me confidence to write and believe that I what I wrote was really good (and it really was good). I was always one of those people who believed that they had no real talents (I can’t sing, dance, act, etc.). This teacher made such a HUGE impact on me that when I was going through my really hard years, I never stopped writing. I always believed that I could be someone important and special… all because of the feedback she would give me. Little things can make a difference. I felt like I was worthy. This seems to be a theme, and is something I think lots of students deal with, especially when they are going through their “changes.”
My experiences as they apply to my students. When I was student teaching, I had one students who hated me just to hate me. She had a very similar background as I did and treated me the same way I probably treated my teachers. I was not offended. She worked VERY hard to make my life miserable and tried to get other students to join her mission… and she succeeded. There was a point during the semester in which I literally was about to blow-up in class. I had had enough of the attitudes, behaviors, etc. There were a few very tense moments. However, I decided that I needed to have an open discussion with this class about the problems we were having. It was a REALLY good discussion, and I learned so much about them and myself. Not long after that, and some very successful lesson plans, this particular student asked me if I was going to graduation (she was a Senior). I asked her if she wanted me there. She said yes. I almost cried. It was epic. The rest of the year was amazing. That was a reward I NEVER expected, and I realized for the first time the true meaning of intrinsic rewards. They are SO much better than anything anyone could have wrapped up and handed to me. I want to make this kind of impact with as many students as I can (realistically, that isn’t possible, but it is a goal to always strive for).
Anyways, this was very therapeutic for me. I have discussed this before, but not with other teachers or in such detail. Thanks!