We all have our own story that describes how we arrived at Imagine Charter School as teachers. It is this story that makes us the teachers we are today. I have always been a reflective person, an introvert by nature, had a quirky sense of humor and I have had some powerful learning experiences I draw and reflect upon with each new student I encounter.
When Mr. Levine posed the question “are you ready to forgive?” it struck me in a way that is hard to describe. What exactly does he mean by this statement? Are these the learning experiences I draw upon everyday to help the students I work with? Can I forgive myself for some of these learning experiences and become a better teacher?
Although I have had many years of education and one might deduce I stayed in school for so long because it was easy and safe, the reality is my brain found the niche it needed to open up the language pathways that had previously gone unopened in school. I did not stay in school because it was easy and safe rather my experience has been quite the opposite.
Snapshots of my K-12 years would show:
-a young girl getting into trouble for talking too much
-a severely anxious child
-a young girl terrified of public speaking
-someone who struggled with math and in fact failed algebra
-a young woman who found her voice in debates where her emotions were inflamed
-an athlete and musician
-a voracious reader
-a young woman who struggled through algebra again
-a defeated student with red marks all over her writing assignments. I eventually came to a point where I began to revise papers between 20 and 30 times before I would show anyone my papers.
-a student who dreaded multiple choice tests because no matter how hard I studied I was never able to remember what I needed to remember
-someone who frequently misunderstood assignments/test questions/direct questions
Although my story continues my reflective journey to understand does not require that I lament all of my experiences. An overview has merely helped me to see that every step along my educational journey was a struggle. However, I was able to continue and persist because I had a strong emotional tie to the information I was studying, a few teachers who encouraged me and I had a purpose.
I just had an extremely emotional experience in the Cognitive Coaching class I am took that helped me to further connect my original purpose in school to my current purpose in life. I am drawn to professions I have a clear purpose. I have a strong desire to help in immediate and meaningful ways. I have also come to understand I want to help individuals who have less power to have more power in and over their lives.
I thought I found a profession I could connect all of those pieces (a lawyer for Native American nations), but I now understand I was not ready for that profession. I needed to grow and take another journey. There is a pivotal point that sits at the apex of my educational experiences in this story. It is this experience that changed the course of my life and sent me in a new direction. When Mel Levine posed the question, “are you ready to forgive?” this is the one experience, of all of my learning experiences which speaks to the power of forgiveness and its potential to inform how I sculpt my interactions with students.
After 21 years of education I sat at a table for an interview with 2 tribal lawyers, members of the Klamath tribal nation and the tribal council. While I would have worked for any tribe that made an offer, I heavily pursued the Klamath position because the Klamath nation had won what has become known as one of the most influential cases in water rights since the early 1900’s. While I could go on and on about what this means, I won’t. My point in telling you this story is the interview was going really well until they saw my transcripts. I failed a course entitled “Civil Procedure” and had to retake the course. The second they saw I failed a class my interview was over.
Nine years of higher education, my passion and my self-worth disappeared before my eyes. Am I ready to forgive? After eight years, yet another degree, a new profession and a deeper understanding of why I failed and struggled, yes, I am ready to forgive and move on. What I once viewed as a detriment to my success has become my launching pad into a new career. A career I have embraced to the fullest extent possible because I have lived it. I have become the teacher I am today because of the experiences I have had, and it is because of those experiences I will never discount the potential within a child.
So the question I ask you as we embark on this journey is, “are you ready to forgive?”-RThorp