Most people think teachers were good students. We are the role models of “Life Long Learning” and we stand as the cheerleaders of education. I used to pretend I fit into this view. I no longer pretend to be something that I’m not. I graduated in the bottom 20% of my class with the bare minimum number of credits required to earn a diploma. My GPA was a 1.2 and I had to attend summer school twice to graduate on time. I did have a nearly perfect attendance record if you ignored my suspensions. To sum it up, I was at the top of no one’s list to become a teacher.
Go back and re-read that opening paragraph and ask yourself what fact is out of place. Think about it, what does not fit with that track record? If you guessed, my nearly perfect attendance, you would be right. Why was I at school every day if I did so poor in all my classes? What made me show up to be shamed, mocked, and pitied day after day? The answer is simple, school was a safe place and I wanted to learn. My family life was not the worst by any means, but my mother resorted to throwing me out when her frustration boiled over and I took her up on the offer first when I was 14 and again when I was 17. I was living on my own and providing for myself while most kids my age still had parents washing their clothes. I found jobs working for cash because I was not old enough to get a job without parent consent and a permit. I lived where I could for stretches of time until my friend’s parents started asking questions. While all of this was happening I showed up to school every day.
What did I do in school? I cultivated my social network and started to follow my interests. I could ace any test given in class. I had always been able to pass all the tests teachers gave me. Growing up I stopped doing homework because the justification for homework was that it prepared you for the test and I could ace the tests. My teachers took a dim view of this and grudgingly passed me on from year to year. I look back and realize that I must have deeply hurt many of my teachers because they could not get through to me. I wonder how many of them worry about having failed me. I wonder how many of them were glad to see me go. I know of one that was furious at having had me. In 8th grade there was a prize awarded to the best male and female student in Social Studies based on a test given at the end of the year. I had earned the honor while simultaneously failing the class. The teacher argued to the administration and my parents that my grade was a forfeiture of the prize. Not only had I had the best score, I was one of 4 in 20 years that had gotten a perfect score. In her eyes I must have cheated. I was not awarded the prize.
So, if I could pass tests and did not do homework then what was I learning? That answer came in the form of a glowing square. My obstinate nature landed me in a study hall all alone. I do not mean that no one would sit with me; I mean that I was the only student in a study hall that was in the computer lab. For forty-five minutes a day I was left alone with a computer as the parapro in charge of the lab ate her lunch. Everyone was happy, I had a computer with internet access, no other teachers had to deal with me, and the parapro didn’t have to do lunch duty. It was that access to the internet that I showed up for every day. I was learning how to build the future.
“The easiest way to predict the future is to invent it” –Alan Kay