My daughter’s birthday was yesterday and I spent a good portion of that day thinking about how far she has come. It occurred to me that she has not lived up to the expectations set for her and I could not be more proud!!!
She started life with a double knot in the umbilical cord, and multiple health related obstacles ever since. From the earliest days in school people held limited expectations for her success. As an educator I know they had the best intentions and honestly believed they were doing the best for her. I do not fault them. But these experiences have greatly informed who I am as an educator now and who she is as a person. Here are a few examples that stick out in my mine.
In kindergarten there was concern she could not read. However she had been reading since she was three, after 4 months in school no one thought to ask her to read – it was assumed she could not.
In middle school she was place in a lower math class not because she was struggling in math but they wanted to put less on her plate. The next year they them moved her back to the higher math class, she had to play catch up, it was tough, but she did well. The result, she now believes she is not as strong in math as she once was.
In high school it was recommended she consider not attending a 4 year residential college, maybe take it easy and take a course or two at the local community college. She is set to graduate this May from a 4 year residential college on time and she has loved every minute of it.
These are just a few of the many examples where the expectations were low and she just ignored them and followed her heart, passion and love of learning. When she wants to know something there is nothing that will stand in her way, even school and well-meaning educators. As a result she has a highly varied knowledge base, diverse skill set and interests making her a truly unique individual and highly competitive in her chosen career path. She worked very hard to overcome any obstacle and to meet ‘normal’ life milestones; she has accepted that life is about never giving up. She strongly believes if you don’t try you have already failed and failure really isn’t an option. You can’t move forward if you don’t keep whacking through the weeds.
For me as an educator it has shown me that we cannot view students through the lens of standards, testing and our institutional goals and objections. It is about focusing on each student and helping them to achieve their best; to harness their unique interests and passions, to help them explore the options they may not know are out there. If we encourage a love of learning and the skills needed for critical thinking the rest will follow.
So happy birthday; keep forging your own path and thanks for teaching me so much.