I had a mix of public and catholic education. I attended several school districts. I can count on one hand how many successful schooling experiences I had in my k-12 years. I repeated second grade because I started kindergarten at 4, and moved districts, and I was “too young” to enter third grade in the new district. I didn’t finish 12th grade.
Mean boys at every institution bullied me. I remember their names, and the ripped dresses, broken thermos, and the sexual assault. School was hard for me.
I remember my sixth grade science teacher telling me the only thing I would need to learn was “would you like fries with that.” (I was attending a public school in an affluent suburb of Boston.)
I remember my Physics teacher in high school telling me I was too pretty to worry about grades.
I remember my Geometry teacher telling me I would ace the art based assignment and not to worry, because math was hard for girls.
I remember my assistant principal encouraging me to leave school, and changing my bus pass to miss standardized exams.
I also remember a beloved freshman English teacher calling my house after I walked out of his class. I remember the kindest art instructor who opened his classroom durning lunch for the students who needed a space that was different from the cafeteria. I remember the theater director who told me “you’re good kid, you’re good.” I remember the choral director who told me I was a valuable part of the accapella group. I remember my eighth grade band director, who made me first chair for flute.
When schooling and I finally came to a peace agreement, I still heard shitty things. The English teacher that taught me how to write refused to write a letter of recommendation. The financial aid office was straight up mean. I was told I didn’t have the writing chops to pursue secondary higher ed. I heard “you were accepted based on your demographic profile” – aka poor. I was still navigating. I graduated cum laude. I went on to do graduate work, and produce published quantitave research, but math is hard for girls. (Fucking kill me, and prove it.) I now sit on actual committees that seek my research skills.
I have student taught and subbed in the highest needs districts in our state. I only come across extremely dedicated teachers and administrators. I have written grants for them, and I believe in them. I want to be clear that this is not rant against public education, because we desperately need our schools to thrive, and the dedicated professionals within those schools work tirelessly for positive outcomes.
We can only draw on our own experiences, and the few things we have learned to make decisions about our families. I was a super smart kid, and no one ever gave me a chance in my K-12 years to be that.
I’m a public educator, and a high needs advisor. I serve students who the system failed, and they are from every “good” and “bad” district. They share my story. They share that moment – that moment when you believe everyone in the institution believes you will accomplish nothing. I still barely trust the system.
My own educational path draws me again to my decisions for my family, and all I know is we need an institution that celebrates them…..I have zero idea of our future. What I do know, is I will undo my own story. My sweet babies will only know they are capable of anything they want to learn whatever inspires them.
Because education changed my life. And I’m determined to give the power of education to my tiny humans. Because my story tells me it’s important.
When I picked up my big from summer camp at her school this week she told me “it’s simply wonderful.” And when I drop off the tinest, she tells me it’s her best. And that’s all I know.
We sacrifice for their schooling, because I know the power of teachers. We sacrifice for their schooling because they are thriving, and they will undo my story. Because education is the most powerful gift you can give, because no one can take it away.
Today she lead the line in from outside time. Her tiny little self lead the line, and at this school I know everyone will provide the space for them to thrive.