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...
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