Recently I got to have dinner with two people I deeply respect and admire in Education. These are passionate, accomplished professional writers, speakers and most importantly; they are passionate teachers. They hold rock star status for me and many in my field. I was delighted to be in their company, one evening after work. But suddenly, everything changed. I didn’t even begin to see it coming.
You see, I’m first educated in my family. No one went to college before me. I wasn’t college track in school. I didn’t know there was one. I didn’t understand why other kids went off to college. That wasn’t a reality for me or my family.
When I begged to go to college after high school, my father said I “should get some secretarial skills under my belt”. So I put myself through school while working first as a secretary, and later as sales representative during the day, student at night. I took classes at the local community college at night. I applied for and got jobs that usually required college degrees. I didn’t have one. I was a poser. I didn’t belong at the table.
During the course of my studies when someone suggested that I could be a teacher I cried. I couldn’t imagine it. But I made decisions based on hope. I changed majors from business to education and began to study education. I was older than most other students. I went to ten different schools, piecing together an undergraduate degree between community colleges and two universities. It took me ten years to finish, and another two to get a teaching credential. But you see, I didn’t look on this as tenacity, grit, or perseverance. Instead, I felt less than. I didn’t believe I belonged at the table.
That night at dinner, the topic turned to a workshop at Columbia University where educators come from near and far to learn and grow. Enjoying my wine and the sounds of colleagues all around, I said I’d always wanted to go.
And then – Ka-Boom!
Rock Star #1 said, “Why don’t you come and present with me?”
I’d always imagined attending… but presenting?
Really? I asked.
Yes. Would you do it? He replied.
I smiled and blinked out loud before saying “Yes!”
He said I could suggest a topic, “the more outrageous, the better. Saturdays are for people who LOVE the work. We can be bold.
Wow. My mind began rapid firing. The conversation moved along. I ran a possible topic I’d been playing with by Rock Star 1.
“See, this is me falling in love with you,” he beamed back at me as I spoke about nerd studies, writing and helping students read.
This IS Amazing.
But perhaps even more amazing is coming to know there is a place at the table for me. And if this is true, then there is also a place, my friend and colleague, for you.