I Believe in Education

I can almost picture myself now….three years old, fingers clenched to a desk, red faced, and shouting, “ME SCHOOL TOO!” All of this in reaction to my mother’s prompting that it was time to leave my older brother’s pre-school class as the parent/teacher conference had come to a close. It was just a puzzle I was putting together but it was important business I was sure. Every afternoon my parents oo’d and ah’d over my brother’s most recent coloring page or worksheet, the best of which were displayed proudly on the refrigerator. Enough of the limelight had been taken; it was MY turn to learn!

This was the attitude of competition that carried me through my elementary and middle school years. Each report card was another opportunity to impress and defeat that older brother of mine. I loved opening up those yellow envelopes every six weeks and hearing from him that the teachers “must be getting easier in their aging years.” Looking back I’m happy that the intrinsic motivation to surpass my brother was there pushing me to do better and learn more each day. However, it had its ups and downs.

I can still remember the first test question I ever missed. It was fourth grade, Mrs. Taylor’s science class. The question asked was “What is the safest method for cleaning out your ears?” It was even multiple choice! I only remember two of the options, the one I chose, “q-tips” and the correct one, “wash cloth.” How could my mom have been wrong all those years?!?!

Worse yet was my reaction to my first ever “B.” I walked to the front of the school bawling my eyes out, several people checked on me probably assuming I was near death. My mother came in to pick me up and wasted several minutes just trying to figure out what the fuss was all about. I was certain she’d never forgive me, but she took me in her arms, drove me home, and assured me I could “bring it up before report cards come out.”

By the time high school rolled around it wasn’t enough to have all A’s, at this point anything below a 95 was considered “almost a B” and begged the question “what’s happening in that class?” I set myself up on the proverbial pedestal and HAD to ensure I was not dethroned. After all, college was just around the corner and no barely A-average student is going to survive out there! I never quite grew accustomed to the look on my parents’ faces when the inevitable B would sneak in on a math test. Math had always been my worst subject, the thorn in the side of my educational bliss.

Then came the day, THE day I tell you. After 18 years of living in the exact same room, after studying each night on the exact same dining room table, it was time. Time for me to fly away from the nest and see if my college experience would be anything like what they prepared me for. I had decided on Huntingdon College as the place for me and planned to double major in Psychology and Education. After all, I had to keep up my “ambitious one” act. I moved in, waved goodbye to my family and started the business of making friends. Life was good. Then came the day the music died, the education program was cancelled and I was stuck with a Psychology only major or the dreary thought of trying to transfer away from my new home.

I stuck it out…so there I was….a graduate. Now what? I floundered around in a few jobs that were ok, but not a permanent fit for me. Then came my wonderful husband who encouraged me to pursue my passion, go back to school and get that education degree I wanted so I could come alive in a job I loved instead of working to pay the bills. When we went about the business of applying to Auburn Montgomery we were told there was no way I would complete the program before we were set to move (that’s military life for ya), I needed too many pre-requisites since my undergraduate degree wasn’t in Education and I’d only taken 1 (not 4) math courses (there’s that darn thorn again!). We simply told them they didn’t know who they were dealing with, and pressed on. I took courses from three different colleges that summer to make up the slack (no one university would allow me to take more than one math course at a time) and was ready to start that Fall with only one undergraduate pre-req to go.

I was in my glory; graduate school was everything I’d hoped for and more. I soaked up so much knowledge and really felt like it was applicable in life. I’ll have to explain the reasoning for the timing some other occasion as this post is getting lengthy, but, suffice it to say, it was time for Will and I to grow our family plus one! I was partially through my last semester of coursework and can’t begin to count the number of lectures I walked out of to relieve my pregnant nausea and return back, I had that looming move in the back of my mind the whole time. It was tough, but nothing would stop me now. There was only one thing between me and graduation, internship, a semester long proving of one’s abilities. I can’t even begin to describe how much I learned during this time, so I won’t try I’ll just say as my giant belly was expanding daily, so was my brain! It wasn’t always roses here either, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Graduation was scheduled on my due date, I figured I didn’t need the ceremony, it was the experience and that silly piece of paper I was after… our little one stuck it out with me (and two more weeks after that!)

So that’s it, that’s my journey through becoming educated. I wouldn’t change it one bit. When the time is right for me to be back in the classroom, I hope to inspire others to pursue their passions through some form of education too. The path may be different but it’s the journey that matters!

I Believe in Being Molded

Concrete walls covered in dust would standout anywhere but here. Here, they matched the floor, the ceiling, the tables, the stools…everything. It was well-lit, so it couldn’t be haunted. No, it was just Stables Studio, and extension of Huntingdon College where they kept the ceramics to themselves. Earlier in my life some had marveled at my play dough sculptures, perhaps this would come just as naturally. It had to! Afterall, this IS my grades we’re talking about here. The wet clay lay lifeless before me, waiting. Waiting to be molded, thrown, flattened, something, anything. Anything to change it into a form. It continued to lie there, taunting me. I knew I had a project due and the specifics were laid out; it was up to me to make the magic happen. I carried on in this manner the entire semester, longing to know just what to do; then falling short of my vision, only to sign up for another semester the next year. In the end I’d won an award, the Herb Patterson Work of Outstanding Merritt. It didn’t feel so outstanding to me though. I could still picture it in its natural form, a damp clump; wishing to become more.

It hit me sometime after that, I am the clay. The only difference is the potters’ hands change from year to year, even day-to-day sometimes. It is taking a lifetime to sculpt me, and I can only hope that in the end, the hands that mold the fingerprints in my skin are proud of what I’ve become. In the beginning I’m sure there were visions of grandeur; I had proclaimed the desire to become the first woman to become President of the United States of America hadn’t I? Thumbs kneaded me in any direction I desired to go, they pushed me to excel in my education, and they pressed harder when it came to extra curriculars. All the while, still not sure of where I would end up. None of the hands seemed surprised that I’d chosen to go to Huntingdon College, I was the only one taken aback. I thought I’d resolved to be a housewife and a wonderful mother like the path taken by so many of the other lumps of clay I’d called my friends. It was the hands that saw some potential they wouldn’t let rest.

From then on the pressure came, I couldn’t let so many hands down. I had to succeed at something, anything. Would Dean’s list be enough? Hardly, they had come to expect those results. Would joining the Secret Service be enough? Certainly, but that wasn’t a love that ran deep for myself and I couldn’t live the rest of my life just for them. The motherly desire lingered with me, longer than any other. Then it hit me, of course, it was so obvious now. I had wanted to be shaped into a teacher for as far back as I could remember. I was saddened for a moment, not wanting to disappoint all those who had high hopes and had molded me all along the way. It was a risk I would have to take, although I wasn’t sure when or how.

Then came my loving husband who believed in me and supported me more than anyone else. He only barely shaped me in his image for fear that he might change the woman he so deeply cared for already. If teaching was my desire it was his as well. The dream was quickly becoming a reality; I could be a mother to the masses! It was then that I began my Masters degree. These sculptors were professionals. They had worked with many like me before. Their own bodies having been formed much in the same way, just ahead of my time. They were careful not to push too hard, but just enough to share what they’ve learned. It isn’t over yet, and I can’t wait to be formed even more meticulously.

In my future I will become every teacher that’s ever fashioned me in their own image in some way. Even the ones I didn’t like had something positive to add to my experience. I believe they were all placed there at just the right time in my life to make an impact, an impact that I will carry with me forever.

I will stand out from the crowd like Mrs. Drozdowski. I’ll have some cutesy opening one liners from Coach Harmon. I’ll carry the air of respect of Mrs. Golden. I’ll have the warmth of Dr. Hogan, the organization of Dr. Gilchrist, the tune into the younger generation of Dr. Bowden. I”ll carry the serenity and artistic talents of Mr. Payne. I pray that the love of Christ will overflow me like Ms. Jones, that the laughter of Mrs. O’Rear will calm me in days of strife, and the peace of experience will come with time as with Coach Edge. I’ll view the many sides of the situation as Dr. Deal did. There are plenty more, too many to name. They too have impacted my creations, I will carry their imprints with me for a lifetime.