As a high school administrator, it continues to become crystal clear to me the impact that education has on the development of everyone. This environment that the vast majority of us spend at least 10-12 years of our life, is a second home to many kids. Growing-up, the value of school for me was more about doing what seemed to be more like a choir than something that would lead to future rewards.
I use to sit in class and think, "What is the purpose of all of this?" This mentality had a lot to do with the fact that when I left school, the community I returned to was not this "paradise" that teachers would tell us education lead to. The "Dare to Dream" posters where nothing but fake advertisements to me. I didn't understand the concept of a college, because up until my high school years I'd never seen one. I didn't want to learn how to diagram sentences, or all the names of rocks, or the quadratic formula- I wanted them to teach me how to escape my surroundings. I needed education to acknowledge the real world circumstances I lived, not the fantasies I couldn't relate to.
My mom had high expectations for me as a student. I remember her telling me that I would be a deadbeat if I didn't get an education, and she would follow-up by pointing out many of the conditions in my community and even remind me of her story. Having me at 17, she had to grow up fast; the story of most teenage pregnacies and children had out of wedlock. All I knew was that money seemed to be the most important thing in life for the people I knew. If you didn't have money you struggled hard, and for the few that had a little bit I only saw them spend it on hobbies and materialistic things. Few, if any, people around me were talking about savings, investments, or property. If you had a house, you likely rented it. The Stock Market was another planet we heard the news channels talk about every now and then. It took a while for the value of education to truly register in my mind.
Through some special influence of teachers, coaches, my mom, grandparents, and some other family members that showed me what having a vision could do for my life, I started to see school as the one way ticket out of the borderline conditions of poverty. I'm not saying that I was the poorest kid on the block by any means; nor, was I completely under exposed to any other facets of life. I experienced traveling, I was not absoulely underprivileged, but in school because of my socio-economic circumstances I was considered to be at- risk. This code that we still give today to underprivileged kids who are predetermined to POSSIBLY fail academically because of their circumstance, is the stigma that I came from. Somehow along the way, someone taught me how to shed this label.
I am glad I never stopped saying "teach me"; that I never stopped asking the questions that lead me out of my "at-risk" label and into those "paradises" that my teachers talked about. I'm lucky that people cared enough about me to say, "You can do it, and this is how..." To this day, I still encourage kids to advocate for themselves, to be a voice, even when their circumstances say they are PROBABLY doomed from the start. I look at some of my family members who are still those at-risk kids now turned adults, and I wonder when they stopped saying "teach me"; stopped being willing or having the motivation to learn.
There is a fear that many people self-consciously feel about learning new things. One day, I was helping my little sister with homework, and I noticed the more I told her she did something wrong the more frustrated she became. In that moment something dawned on me: learning requires someone to expose all of their shortcomings and to trust the experience and knowledge of someone else to teach them how to make them better. The last thing anyone wants is to feel less than someone else; to be underneath a label. I told my little sister that it was ok to learn what you don't know; that one day she too would have someone asking her to "teach me", but that if she stopped trying to learn, stopped trying to discover the things she didn't know- then she would fall short of her goals.
Learning never stops; don't be afraid to open your mind to being taught. Many people live in the darkness most of their life, because they don't know the difference. There's a whole world in front of us; all we have to do is WANT to discover it.
What we all should say at some point in our life is: TEACH ME.