Day 29: My History of Learning: 7 Pivotal Moments #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Prompt: Your History of Learning - What has been your greatest learning experiences?

In the first year of graduate school everyone has to take a methods class- a lot of the content is history of education and the building of a personal philosophy on teaching and learning.  One of the projects we had to do was to identify the major leaning experiences of our life to that point and present it in a creative way.  

I brainstormed a long list of learning moments- some  more cynical than others.  I remember reading the list to my husband, who was then my boyfriend of only 6 months, and he commenting on the TONE of the list.  I weeded down to a robust 12 or so.  I cut out circles of colored card stock and wrote each moment on a circle and included the age that the learning moment tool place.  I then I put them together in to the shape of a caterpillar, not unlike this one: 

I remember feeling like I had all these great experiences but I was just at the beginning, as a career changer.  I was not a butterfly yet. 

I don't know that I see myself as a butterfly yet.

I do know that I have reflected on my journey, a lot. Here are 7 pivotal learning events:

  1. JoAnne Jugum.  She was my 3rd grade teacher.  This was the year I learned to write cursive. Cursive provided me freedom to explore and escape, encouraged to write letters and stories. This is also the year that I was granted refuge from the storm of growing up.  I was painfully aware that I was not fitting in with the kids I had gone to school with for the previous 3 years.  She let me spend recess in her room, so I could read and hide.  It was safety when I needed it. 
  2. Barely passing math in 8th grade.  This was the first time I felt like a true failure.  I has been told for years that I was better, smarter than the kids in the "regular" classes.  I was condemned and had to repeat math in 9th grade.  I thought I was being relegated to the class with the stupid kids, the slow kids, the kids who were less because they were exactly where they were supposed to be, working at grade level. What did this really mean? It means I hadn't been ready for 9th grade math in 8th grade.  It meant that I started 9th grade with my peers as equals.  It forced me to rethink and reformulate many of ideas I had about being a student, learning and my own experiences.  
  3. Not being able to afford to go away for college after graduation from high school.  I applied to visited and got into a private college in Minnesota. I could not afford to go there and I didn't get into the state school I applied to.  I was relegated to community college, which I hated, a lot.  It's not for everyone.  That's ok.  I dropped out after 1 quarter.  I had amazing grades and because I had some college, when I reapplied to the state school I wanted to go to I applied as a transfer student and got in with my 3.9 GPA and amazing essay.
  4. Starting college at 20 and a half and not 18.  No dorms.  Living off campus.  Being "non-traditional". Having had to work harder to get there...I soaked up every moment.
  5. College, both undergrad and grad school.  I learned to take risks, collaborate, inquire, research, write, read and to be truly curious and creative.  My best friends in life are from college, as I am sure if true for many of us. Three universities, 7 years, countless classes and so much joy.  
  6. Moving to NYC.  I am coming up on my 10 year anniversary in NYC.  I didn't move here for college.  I took a risk, mailed 13 small boxes to my new apartment and bought a plane ticket.  I achieved my professional goals from the first part of my life.  I was so poor I couldn't afford to turn my heat on that first year, nor could I afford to go home for the holidays and had my first Christmas away from my parents.  I met my husband, I went to grad school, I became a teacher.  I grew into myself.
  7. Teaching and Learning in the NYC DOE. 1.1 million students.  1700 schools. 75K+ teachers.  The numbers are staggering.  Being a teacher here means many things. The odds are against us. Many come and go but many stay, teach, learn, grow.  It's more political than I would like, but I don't show up for the politics.  I show up for the kids.  I show up for Cory so he and I can sit on the couch in my classroom at lunch and laugh about silly things.  I show up so I can have an impromptu conversation with my 11th graders about what life would have been like if they stopped working for the grade on the paper because there were no grades. I show up so I can stop Joaquin, a sophomore, in the hallway and tell him that I want him to sit in on an AP class later in May so he can see what it is like and how working hard pays off.  I show up so I can celebrate Ashley, one of my advisees tomorrow because I was told by her geometry teacher that she is doing exceptionally well and potentially could have an 85-90 by the end of the year. I show up because there are little moments and big wins that teach me about the human experience.

All these moments have influenced and challenged my perception of my world. If you ask me this question in 10 more years I am sure I will give you a new list of moments that I remember, but experience changes perception.  I will keep seeking out new experience, new challenge, new learning in order to grow.


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