A blast from the past- originally posted October 28, 2009
"What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore---
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over---
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
When I was in seventh and eighth grade two things were my reality, one, my home life was dismal, to say the least, and two, books were my only escape.
As a result of these two facts I was called a "bookworm", or"professor", among a few other choice words I will not enclose here.
I found these labels funny because while I was always deep in a book, I was not the best student in class by any means of the imagination. It was not that I did not have the potential.
The fact was that I found out as an adult that I actually was quite bright but had undiagnosed ADD, sadly the biggest challenge for me in school was my home life.
My mother kept me out of school anytime she or her friends needed to run errands, as I was the resident translator.
The extended absences had me falling further and further behind, causing my grades to slip and my mother to punish me for being lazy.
It was a vicious cycle that caused my self-esteem to slip further and further and I really thought I was stupid.
Add to the mix my dysfunctional home life with my mother's boyfriend, their drinking and, well, you get the picture.
While school was an escape from the chaos, it was also disruptive.
I attended school in an inner city neighborhood, where race issues ensued, gangs prevailed and cliques were the norm.
The ironic thing was that with all this going on, an environment that it would have been very understandable for teachers not to care, it was the total opposite.
My teachers, and school administrators, were my life line.
They were good, kind, caring people, who at times were placed in harm's way because of their caring nature.
In fifth grade I saw one of the sweetest, nicest teacher punched in the face in front of the whole class by a drugged out mother because her son had been expelled for selling drugs.
A male teacher was punched and kicked by an out of control male student for being reprimanded for assaulting a female student.
You would think that with all this going on teaching was the last thing on these teachers' minds, but teaching was the most important thing to them.
The school personnel was predominantly white and there were a few of African American decent. There was no Latino representation among the staff.
I only point out the racial make up of the teachers because I was blessed to not know what racism, or stereotyping was, well at least by the school personnel, the students and outside the four walls was a different story.
these teachers opened a wide, new world for me! One of hope, and dreams and possibilities.
They prepared lesson plans for an overcrowded classroom with 25 inner city kids struggling to survive, and taught us with the same dedication as if we were all college preparatory students heading to the best private high schools and Ivy league universities.
I learned about history. Not the condensed, homogenized version, but real history.
I learned about Paul Revere falling off the horse, drunkard fools dumping tea in the harbor, how amazing Pocahontas really was and that there really were intelligent, famous people who happened to actually look like me!
I was introduced to classic works of literature by some of the greatest writers of our time. I learned to write poetry and to understand it when I read it.
I learned that even bookworms can earn presidential physical fitness awards and that even the tiniest planet had importance in our solar system.
These incredible people, helped me discover my voice. I was given a speech to give for our eighth grade graduation and I just about thought I wanted to die.
They walked me through it, coached me and even bought me lunch as we rehearsed it over and over.
On graduation day as I stared into the packed auditorium, minus my family who showed up 45 minutes late and missed it, I slowly discovered the power of the spoken word.
As I got more and more confident and the smiles and encouraging nods from those loving teachers gave me courage, I felt a transformation begin.
I felt a small stirring within my soul. It was ever so tiny. Like a butterfly gently brushing against my chest.
But as I spoke it grew a bit stronger, until the very end of my speech where I felt a lightness come over me.
I would love to say that I escaped my personal prison that day, but I cannot.
While I did go to a private high school for three months, I was so far behind, it was a lost cause for me.
These teachers were not as understanding and had no time for an awkward kid from the other side of town.
I soon wound up back in public school and my surroundings consumed me. I became a statistic.
High School drop-out, teen-age mother, welfare recipient and working for minimum wage with an erratic, semi-alcoholic husband.
But the stirrings remained. The seed had been planted and as much as I would have found it easier to let it die, I could not.
It would have been a slap in the face to all the time and effort my teachers had spent on me.
So I fought against the norm, I earned by high school equivalency diploma, went to school to become a medical assistant while working and raising three boys.
I got hired as a police officer, graduated from the academy and went on to a very productive career in areas outside the normal realm for women.
But my biggest quest was for knowledge. I wanted a college degree.
I had started and stop going to school a couple of times due to the pregnancy of my last son and then my divorce.
When I got remarried I inherited four additional kids and their educational needs came first.
Now many years later and with all my life experience, people wonder why I am in school working on my degree.
They tell me I do not need it. I have my own business that while small is growing and my law enforcement skills are in demand in the private security sector, why bother?
I bother because just when I thought I had it all figured out, I realize I do not!
I bother because even though my teachers may never know, I will know and I refuse to let all their hard work go to waste.
My teachers instilled in me the importance of education,
"Silver and gold may fade away,
But a good education will always stay."
One of my teacher's wrote in my yearbook.
He was right!
While some of my teachers have already passed away and the others I do not know where they are, one thing is certain, when I walk across that stage to collect my bachelor's degree, my Master's degree and when I received my Doctorate's, not only will my family be there for me, but so will every one of those teachers!
I KNOW that if it had not been for God sending them into my life as my safety net, things would have been a lot worse for me.
I would never had found the ray of light that showed me the way out of my darkness and brought me into the amazing world that I live in now.
The light that I bask in now and spread like rays bouncing off a prism to any one around me..
So for all you educators out there who might think you are wasting your time, or should have gone into another field...
I want you to know, you cannot save them all....
But you did save this one....
And as a result of that, you saved my children and my grandchildren and so on.
Thank you for what you do and for caring enough to help someone like me figure it out!
And no, this was not one of my school assignments so I could try to be teacher's pet!