Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What measures success?

I was insulted by one of my ninth graders. They often throw mud at me and most times I don't give them the satisfaction of a response, but in this particular instance I did.

I was attempting to do a lesson based on No Name Calling Week because their class has had issues with bullying. I was in the process of the painstaking task of getting them to respond to lessons they don't care about when the insult occurred.

I was trying to start the ball rolling by telling them my experiences with bullying. Somewhere in the story I mentioned how I have a hard time relating to people my age because of how I was raised and because most of them aren't where I am. So this little bugger turns to me and says, "and where are you? Teaching here for minimum wage?" I fired back by stating that her comment was coming from someone who values being pretty over smart and asked her what she was going to do when pretty ran out. Bad, idea, I know.

The kid got me thinking: what is the measure of success? How is my teaching position at my small, independent school a success? I will tell you how:

I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. As of May 15, 2009, I will be the first person in my family with a graduate degree. I have held down a job since I was 14. I have not been without work since. I graduated from a vocational school where trades are valued over academics and managed to get into one of the best public institutions in the North East. I found and applied to schools myself because my guidance counselor was off adopting a Russian baby my entire Senior year. (I got into every school I applied to save for one.) My father is absent and during my adolescence I have very little recollection of my mother. When I started college, she had a breakdown and moved across the country to stay with her brother. Thanksgiving break. 19 years old, I was left in a dorm room with all of my worldly possessions, ravished credit and nowhere to go. Since the age of 17, I have purchased 6 cars. 4 were lemons, one was sold out from under me, and the 6th is brand new - in my name and no one touches it but me. I could go on, but I won't.

I survived. I persevered. I made it because failure was never an option. By my own standards, becoming a statistic was also not an option. I had a best friend in high school that had a baby. She and I don't talk anymore because, like most people my age, we don't have anything in common. After she gave birth there were lots of awkward silences only filled by questions I could have answered myself with running a simple Google search.

At this point in my life, I have never worked a full time job. (My temp stint does not count.) I have held down three jobs to keep myself in school and properly fed. I have never made above $12k in a year, but I have done everything I need to do to be able to succeed.

In the Fall of 2009, I will be gainfully employed on a full time basis as a High School English teacher. I will have medical benefits and a 401k. As a teacher, I will never make "a lot" of money. But last year, I made it work on $9,586.32.

I wake up every morning knowing that I should have failed. I should have become a statistic. I should have chosen the path of least resistance and become a "product of my environment," but I didn't.

I get up every morning and know that I am headed to a job that I love. I love my students, even the rude ones. Especially the rude ones.

I worked hard. I kept my eyes on the prize. I am still arriving at my goals, but each heartbreak, each abandonment and disappointment has made me the person I am today. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the measure of success.


  1. What a great view. It's important in my life to meet people who have passion. To me, that is a success measuring tool--and if you're passionate about teaching--then you truly are successful.

    And as far as that rude student, I would say someone's permission slip for the field trip gets lost one day...I'm just saying.

    Keep up the great work girl!


  2. The little girl was out of pocket. I don't blame you for saying what you did. I hope she ignored her own ego and heeds the lesson. Pretty only lasts so long and gets you so far.

  3. Also, I tip my hat to you for making it work with less than 10,000 over one year.

  4. YES YES this post. Oh, and I know about the low pay, too! First few years of teaching while going to school, I made about 10k a year, too. Congrats on persevering, girl. All good things will come and are coming to you.

  5. I came across your blog because I was looking for examples of "measures for success" that is implementing a business system. Moreover, I could not help myself but to continue to read your story. Although, I have never been bullied or bullied anyone. I have seen it done and often done something about it. Your story inspired me to want to do something, but of course, it's not something I can do as an adult, knowing the many children who goes through it daily. I am often sadden but angered when I hear people who bullies. I recently read a story about three boys who committed suicide because they were bullied. I was angered and wanted to hurt those who did the bullying. Nevertheless, I know in my heart that would not be right. God tells you not to throw stone for stone. Then there is those that make you feel that way knowing they are WRONG. I say, I can be proud of someone (you) I do not know for continuing with your life, and has become the best you can be. Thank you for your story. As it has been on my mind, once I am done with my degree in Information Technology I believe I will take that challenge on to become a teacher. Again thank you for your courage! In addition, remember reach for the sky...the world is yours to not just stop being a teacher but even something greater! (Try to take on something else than teaching, it is there for the taking.)


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