I was not a very good student in school. I was told by my mom that I actually got good grades when I was younger for whatever that’s worth. Not that grades in 1st and 2nd grade don’t really mean as much but I don’t remember them. For all of my adolescence, I can remember, I was a well below average student. I didn’t really have anyone to blame for my bad grades. My poor performance was a solo effort, in spite of the efforts of teachers and admin at my school.
I went to the same school from 1st to 12th grade. Teachers tended to stick around so there was little turnover at my school. Because of this, teachers “knew” me before I got to their class. While I was never disrespectful or rude to adults, I had become legendary for my tendency to disrupt or fall asleep in class. As one teacher told me I was the very definition of “hot and cold.” I was either making class extraordinarily difficult to teach by cutting up and telling jokes… or I was passed out snoring, using my sweatshirt as a pillow. I slept so much that many teachers thought “Pillow” was a nickname and didn’t realize it was my actual last name until I came to their class.
At one point I was actually kicked out of my school because my grades fell below a 2.0 GPA. Luckily, I was allowed to return after a summer school session.
I can’t really say I ever completely turned it around and became a star student. However, I did graduate thanks to teachers hounding me at every turn. I graduated with a 2.1 GPA which obviously wasn’t good. Lucky for me, my high school, The J. Graham Brown School, had a great academic reputation. This, in conjunction with a pretty good ACT score, was enough for me to be accepted to my dream school, The University of Kentucky.
I have to admit, even though I had never cared about my grades, I was worried about how well I could do in college. I knew college was harder and that this time if I fell behind, I wouldn’t have a safety net of teachers that knew me for 12 years to work overtime to help me catch up.
To my surprise…college wasn’t really that hard for me. Pretty much the same, maybe even easier than high school. It looked like my high school’s reputation of being an academic powerhouse was well deserved. This did not match the experience of other people in my freshmen class. Many of my peers were struggling to adapt to the college lifestyle and coursework.
College was different for me. I was prepared for the work, but I also found myself trying harder. Not only did I do significantly better academically, but I was even able to mature behaviorally and socially.
This is the reason I write about education.
At some point around my senior year, I was contacted by a Teach For America recruiter. They sold me on the idea of reaching students like myself. When I started doing the research, I realized that everyone doesn’t go to a quality school in a good district like myself. Everyone doesn’t get 12 years of great teachers that give them 2nd chances over and over again. I became a contributing member to society but that was not solely through my own effort, and I was extremely lucky to go to a school that was good enough to give me the tools I needed for life in spite of my insubordination and lack of interest.
Every child deserves that chance.
I can’t teach at every school, but I can reach thousands maybe even millions of people and influence policy through writing. I write to encourage best practices. I write to bring awareness to issues. I write to pressure people into making our educational landscape better.
Why I Write: Sylvia Denice