I’ve worked all of my life to meet or exceed the standard for academic success. My goal growing up was to earn a college degree. I’ve earned four of those. I wanted to be a teacher. I am National Board Certified although I’m no longer in the classroom. I wanted to do my work to the absolute best of my ability, because good has never been good enough. I credit and thank my mother for that all at the same time. And while that type of thinking has carried me and my career a long way, I find my paradigms shifting. I’m not sure if that’s based on age or experience or realizing that academically there’s nothing left for me to prove. I don’t know much of anything for certain, but what I do know is that everyday I’m praying and hoping for some very basic things for my students.
I want them all to stay alive and graduate high school. I’d love for everyone of them to earn a college degree. I want them to not be victims of violence. I want them to avoid the criminal justice system at all costs because once you are on someone’s court docket, another layer of challenge is added to your life forever. I want them to have hope for a better, brighter, and successful future. I want to help them help themselves because I know there are no heroes coming to save them. I always tell them- you must save yourself. Everything they need to succeed, they already have. I encourage them to be their own hero, because nobody came to save me.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my sisters and I saved ourselves. We had the blessing of a great mother who instilled the right values in us, but at the end of the day, (so cliche, I know) it was all up to us. My mother did not wake me up for class as a student at Clemson University. She didn’t check my homework to be sure it was done. She wasn’t there to force me to get the research and reading done for my dissertation. While she has been my biggest supporter and encourager, she always made one thing very clear:
“If you want success, it is yours for the taking. Education is out there for anyone who wants it. But no one can do it for you. You must do it for yourself.”
That’s the important lesson I’m trying to teach my students everyday. I’m trying to give them hope that they have a measure of control over their own destiny and that the root of that control is in how hard they are willing to work. It’s in not giving up. I’m trying to help them understand that I’ve accomplished some things I did not think I could. Everyday is a test. I am still pushing myself. I am still persevering. I need them to do the same and they need to do it for themselves.
Because no one is coming to save them, but they can certainly save themselves. I am amazed at the resilience that my students demonstrate on a daily basis. In spite of all they are faced with, they come to school everyday and work. They are amazing people and there’s no test that can measure that.
Until next time-be you, be true, and be a hope builder!