An accomplishment I am proud of. This topic had me stuck like a stick in the Oklahoma mud. All week I would mentally list something I had accomplished. Being a mom, sure. Writing through life’s ups and downs, yes. Making my husband laugh, of course. Maybe I took the topic too seriously, but I finally thought about my life.
I grew up here in the U.S., but when I was around five my parents thought it would be good for me to know my dad’s family in Mexico. We spent a year in Mexico in a tiny village on my family’s ranch.
That was the best year of my life. The best. I went to school in a one-room school house with mixed ages. I had no idea what I was doing but I just followed the actions step-by-step of my Mexican cousins. If they grabbed a blue crayon, I grabbed a blue crayon. Children pick up the language fast, and so I did.
I loved school because in the afternoon we took a break. We would go down by the river and eat our lunches picnic-style. I would get lost in thought picking all the beautiful flowers that grew beside the river. I always felt protected because my older cousins would keep an eye on me.
We would walk to school and back home, having to cross the river, at the end of the day. I remember how I would proudly give my flower bouquet to my mom.
I recall with fondness the morning smell of the lime and guava orchard growing on the ranch. I remember milking a cow and a goat. I fed chickens. I had a “pet” pig named Todd. I really should have named him Bacon, because eventually the family had to eat him. I cried and did not partake.
A drought came in to our area, and for the first time in my life I began to feel something called hunger. Squirrels became something appetizing. One wonderful day, my aunt Judy had sent us a box of staples—Jell-o, Campbell’s soup….it was heaven.
My parents decided then it was time to return to our life here.
I was going to begin Kindergarten here that Fall at Apollo Elementary. When I returned to the United States, I was glad but I sorely missed the beauty of Mexico. My cousins and I had a small lake that glowed with an emerald clear color that was our hangout. We would watch chameleons change color to blend in with the fences. We saw huge turtles and would laugh because they could never catch us when swimming.
Okay, but I had to go to school. My first day of school was with a kind, elderly teacher named Mrs. Snowbarger. Everyone knew she was the BEST Kindergarten teacher. When you hugged her, it was fluffy and felt like love. Many kids would cry every morning in the beginning, and I would do the same. I was not sad until I picked up from them that I should be sad. I was using my old act from that Mexican school house that had gotten me by.
We went to the cafeteria. This was so strange to me. I saw a teacher’s daughter eat a spoonful of mashed potatoes. So I did the same. Step-by-step I ate my lunch like her. It felt like a safe choice.
Most of all, during this thing called school, I was quiet. My teacher was concerned. I don’t think they realized then that I was in that ELL phase of absorbing everything. I had culture shock. I needed to focus on English after focusing so much on only Spanish. I was trying to learn but it was all taking place in my head.
A new teacher came to the school. They decided to put me in her class. She did not think I was smart. I knew this. This makes me think of our kids we teach and how they can pick up signals from teachers without hearing anything verbal. See, they know if you believe in them or not.
This new teacher thought there was something wrong with me. I was quiet. I was scared. I spoke Spanish once and she gave me detention. My parents had the understandable knee-jerk reaction to make us only speak English from now on.
And I lost my other language—my heritage from my father’s side. I remember crying with my head down and feeling ashamed during that whole recess detention.
I did not like this school. It was not at all like the other school. Later on, my story has a bright spot but I will save that story for another day. I guess I just wanted to share how this plays into my accomplishment.
I am proud of me. Despite having many people not believe in me based on my culture, race, sex, etc. I have come far in life. I got an education. And an education means freedom. I was the first of my family to graduate from a university. In 2000, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Ed. I was going to be the believer now. I was going to encourage those kids when no one else would. I was head cheerleader.
In 2013, I obtained my Master’s Degree in Curriculum/Instruction and Reading. I was going to help those struggling readers. I was going to coach teachers and help them to help students.
And now I am contemplating enrollment into doctoral studies. Even if I don't pursue that I am proud of how far I have come with my education. I went from the girl no one believed in to the girl who could. I was like my cousin Alex in the picture above...I was able to climb those mountains. Again, education is freedom. And freedom is quite an accomplishment.