We are a week away from graduation! How did I get here? As this is a little reflection series, wouldn’t it be appropriate to let you know how I ended up with this BA in History and on my way to grad school to be a teacher? Not everything was peachy, but I’m a better person for everything I have been through. So, we’ll keep the not peachy brief, deal?
7 Days to Grad: What Made Me
My parents split up over winter break of 5th grade. As most of my college buddies know, I’m old. So, divorce wasn’t really the norm or something my peers understood. I remember the teacher asking us to tell the class one thing that happened over break and everyone said something they got for Christmas. Having stuff wasn’t really how my family worked, so I don’t think being braggadocious crossed my mind. I told the class my parents are divorced and the poor teacher looked mortified. I thought I had said something inappropriate and my classmates just looked between the teacher and I confused. Little did I know, this would be one of the many moments that I would look back on and think, “As a teacher, how could I handle this situation?”
My COE classmates know that I am entering education for a few reasons but the usual “I had awesome and inspirational grade school teachers” was not one of them. I was bullied a lot in school but the eighth grade was the worst of it. I was jumped and the entire class, teacher included, watched and laughed about it. Today, I doubt anyone would have helped me either. They would probably just take out their phones and posted it on Snapchat. Not having support from friends or a teacher to advocate for me in middle school has really encouraged me to work with that age group. My first practicum was 8th graders and not much had changed. I hope that on top of encouraging my students to be civic-minded that some of them will leave better people willing to help others.
Six Schools, One County
I decided to live with my dad after the jumping incident, so I had changed schools and had to make new friends. It wasn’t the first time I’d changed schools. Zoning changes led to a switch half way through elementary. Still, there’s such a difference between those age groups and midway through eighth grade all students have their people whereas elementary everyone’s less judgmental. I made a handful of amazing friends and we all went to high school together until tenth grade. A new school opened after tenth grade and we were going to be split up. A couple of them did an appeal or something of the sort and got to transfer but it really put into perspective some of the fears that many students experience when they are missing or changing schools because they are bouncing between family members’ homes.
The twelfth grade was rough. I was homeless for a bit, lived in a dodgy hotel, then a very shady apartment- all while finishing high school and working three jobs. An amazing teacher helped me find a scholarship for college but it wasn’t for a career I wanted and I could neither afford to break a lease nor consciously leave my sister on her own. What I went through made me stronger. I learned to trust myself and work hard. In terms of my future career, this experience is something that pushed me to inner city schools, to connect to those students- the ones that are afraid to walk home and have bullet holes in their buildings. I’m not saying these kids “need me” or that I want to “save” anyone. I just know that part of being a teacher is being able to connect to the kids and I’d prefer to be with the kids I have more in common with, the ones that we keep trying to turn into statistics, and show them they can be successful.
After high school, I spent some five years working in every aspect of the wireless industry. The position I loved the most was teaching tech. I led the smartphone and tablet classes and even at eighty years old these tech-hating people were still getting that “eureka” moment. I still wasn’t particularly comfortable talking to people beyond a small group or something one-on-one, but I knew I loved teaching.
Germanna Community College
Choosing to, finally, go to college was easy, paying for it was not. That was the number one reason I had not gone and remains the number one concern as I continue to grad school. It was important to me that I knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be. As I reached my last term for my associate’s degree (the equivalent of the sophomore year of college) I started having conversations wth advisors, mentor teachers in my practicum, and my professors about what grade I should teach and what content area. Germanna was where I found truly inspirational teachers and it would be my history professors that held the greatest sway in my decision. When I went into Germanna the Associates in Education was for k-8, but I always knew elementary wasn’t for me. UMW offered me a scholarship and had a secondary education program, so with some guidance I chose history for my undergrad with the intention to enter the COE for my master’s in secondary education. There were so many factors that I was worried about but it was those professors at GCC that showed me that I could make it to where I am now and be a great history teacher. So, special thank yous to Professors Capobianco and Bradshaw for being the inspiration that all my grade school teachers were not and for the advice and support I needed to succeed.
UMW’s Club Carnival
There is no doubt in my mind that staying on campus and exploring club carnival in my first term at UMW was the best thing I did for myself. I met so many people and got connected to the CSA, but also Club Carnival really showed me the scope of community and opportunity at UMW. I’d never seen so many clubs or seen people so public with their nerdy quirks. I left knowing that it would be okay to be a non-traditional commuter student and transfer in. I left knowing that the labels generally placed on me: bisexual, latina, polyglot, activist, muggle, Whovian, etc. were all things to be okay with. There were more than enough spaces for me at UMW and the fears I had in grade school, the changing schools and not fitting in, they weren’t going to happen if I put myself out there. At the encouragement of many other Eagles, I did and it really shaped my college experience into something great, something beautiful.