I grew up in a multi-racial household where neither of my parents graduated high school. School was never discussed nor was I encouraged to attend. It was the norm to begin working as soon as you turned sixteen. Success was based on being able to maintain a job in order to contribute financially to the family. I had to seek guidance from teachers, coaches and friends since there was no academic support at home. I realized early on that school was going to be my way out.
An education was going to allow me to become financially independent and allow me to experience the world that I did not know much about. There have been some people throughout my education that have guided me in becoming who I am today. It is the relationships that I have made with these people that have helped me realize they are the most important aspects of my education. Without them, I would not be successful. “More and more, the kinds of opportunities that are open to you will be determined by how far you go in school. In other words, the farther you go in school, the farther you’ll go in life. (President Obama, 2010) It has been a long road but I truly believe I have reached success because I am still the only male in my family to graduate from high school and college and to have a career. I think I have gained much wealth, fame, and rank since I have redefined the expectations for my family. Several of my nieces have graduated from high school and one is currently at Penn State receiving her undergraduate degree in Psychology. When I was growing up everything was about work from the time you woke up to the time you went to bed.
There was a lot of fighting with my parents and my siblings. This is what I came to know as normal. When I entered first grade with Mrs. H she was a loving, caring, nurturing teacher. This was the first time I met someone like her. She treated all of her students as if they were her own children. According to Jonathon Kozol, “Education involves the heart and as well as the mind … Learning entails play and risk-taking as well as ordered study. ” (pg. 132) I remember distinctly a time when I got into a physical altercation with another student.
This had been a normal occurrence with me. I thought for sure I was going to get in trouble, sent to the principal’s office and my parents would be called. However, this time was different. Instead, Mrs. H saw that I was consistently misbehaving and she decided to approach me in a calm manner this time. I think because she was frustrated with my behavior. I usually would shut down and not say anything because this is what I did at home to avoid getting into more trouble. This time she sat me down and put me on her lap and hugged me, rocking me back and forth as we sat in silence.
I soon felt her tears on my head and for the first time I felt like someone cared for me. This type of affection had never been shown to me before. Even at this young age Mrs. H made a lasting impression on me. She showed me I didn’t always have to fight to get my way. Mrs. H continued long after first grade to check in with me to see how I was doing and in high school she came to my football and basketball games. She was always there to support me since my parents were not. She was the familiar face in the crowd. I knew Mrs. H cared because she took the time to get to know me as a person and taught me how important it is to get to know my students. I have used Mrs. H’s teaching approach when it comes to my own classroom. I give my students opportunities to share what is important to them on a daily basis. This shows that I care for them not only as a student but as an individual. My wife and I often go biking and we make it a point to bike in the neighborhoods that my students live in so they can see me in a different role. Not just as a teacher. I often go to their games, dances and concerts.
This helps me to build a bond with them outside of the classroom. This is important I know because my students come from similar backgrounds to my own and they need a Mrs. H in their lives just like I did. In middle school I became involved in sports especially basketball. The basketball coach, Mr. M, approached me one day and asked me if I would be willing to try out for the basketball team. At the time I was not thinking about trying out because I had never been part of a team. I loved playing street ball but never thought I was good enough to make the school team.
When Mr. M asked me to try out I immediately thought it was weird because I didn’t know if I could trust him. There were very few people I trusted at that time and I was afraid that he would just be another person in my life that let me down. I knew it was no secret that I could be a behavior problem at times. So it was surprising to me that Mr. M was asking me to become part of his team. I made the team but I was still getting in trouble. Trouble seemed to always find me. Mr. M was a very strict coach, but he did not single me out.
He would have private conversations with me about his expectations for me as a player. Mr. M basically told me I better get myself together or I would not be a part of the team anymore. I did not want that to happen because I finally found something that I was very passionate about and I did not want to lose it. I began attending school on a regular basis, and staying out of trouble. With the help from Mr. M, I completed all of my homework and my grades were the highest they had ever been. He would check up on me with my teachers to make sure I was attending class, completing my work and receiving passing grades.
It was apparent that I was the only player that he was going above and beyond for. Mr. M would bring me home at the end of practice and he would talk to me about how important school is and why I need to continue doing well. He told me that if I kept my grades up and continued playing throughout high school then I would have a chance at a scholarship to college. At the time this idea seemed a little far-fetched. This was the first time anyone had mentioned college to me. I never thought that would ever be an option for me considering, at the time, no one in my family had even graduated high school.
Mr. M continued to have high expectations for me both on and off the court. He really wanted to see me succeed. Mr. M gave up his time to work with me during the summer months to further develop my basketball skills. I continued playing basketball throughout middle school and high school. When it came time to apply to college it was Mr. M who brought me on college visits and guided me in filling out applications. From Mr. M I developed a good work ethic because he pushed me even when I thought I could not do it and wanted to give up. He also made me more responsible and he helped me value education. One finding that has emerged is that teachers appear to teach more content and to teach it with more warmth of affect to children for whom they have high expectations. ” (Tantum, pg. 52) I continue to pass on what I learned from Mr. M to my students. I promote attendance within my own classroom. I always take time out for teachable moments in order to share the importance of school and receiving a higher education. A lot of my students need positive role models in their lives. I also coach modified basketball. There is mandatory study hall before practice so students can get caught up on work.
Teachers volunteer their time in order to assist the players with their work. By providing my players with a study hall this gives them a quiet place to get their work done. This is what I needed as a student that Mr. M provided for me. I am passing along Mr. M’s message that academics are just as important as basketball. This is how Mr. M was an important aspect in my education. It was through basketball I came to know one of my good friends Anthony. Still today we play on intramural basketball teams and recently we were groomsman in each other’s wedding. I grew up primarily around Latinos and African Americans.
It wasn’t until I joined the basketball team that I befriended the white race. “Despite the social tensions students in these inter-district programs do sometimes encounter – and despite those famous “separate tables” in the cafeterias to which black students often gravitate, and in regard to which an awful lot of lamentation is devoted to the press – many of the white and nonwhite students get to know each other far too well not to be drawn to one another, finally, as friends. ” (Kozol, pg. 234) Anthony comes from what I thought at the time a perfect family.
He comes from a high middle class family. He has an older sister and two younger brothers. His mom, dad, and siblings were at every game supporting him. This was something I longed to have, supportive parents. I started hanging out with Anthony outside of school. His parents would often bring me home or invite me to come over for dinner. This was the first time I saw a real functioning family. His family would eat around the dinner table and at first this was uncomfortable for me. But I grew to look forward to eating over at his house because of the sense of family.
Anthony’s parents would ask us how our days at school were and we would discuss practice or a game. These were not usual topics of conversation for me at my house. When I walked into my house at the end of a school day my dad usually had a job for me to do and then I would grab dinner and eat it in front of the television. Spending time with Anthony and his family opened the door to a new world. It allowed me the opportunity to become an honorary guest in a fully functional family. Through them I learned the importance of spending time with others and participating in meaningful conversations.
As an adult I look forward to having children of my own to converse with at the dinner table and support them at their school events. These three people had an impact on my education and have really helped me become successful. Success is measured differently for everyone. But I truly believe from my upbringing to now I have done what no one else in my family has done. So anything I achieve from here forward is an added bonus on my road in life. I have provided new standards for my family where graduating high school and going on to college is not an option it is a necessity.