I Was A Secondary Education SnobMonday, August 19, 2013
My whole life, I've been "the smart one". I was a voracious reader, got excellent grades, and was considered by many to be a teacher's pet because my teachers always liked me (well, except some of my math teachers -- math is definitely my worst subject, and I'm not very good at showing my work). As such, there was always a lot of pressure and expectation on me to succeed, not only from my family, but from myself as well.
I'm going to talk about something that I don't really like talking about, because it's embarrassing for me, especially considering that I was "the smart one": I've been kicked out of school for academic reasons.
Now please don't think it's because I'm stupid or anything, because that's definitely not the case. There were a few contributing factors, and some of them carried over from the first time to the second. To fully understand this story, we need to go back ten years.
When I was 15, and in the second semester of my sophomore year, my dad decided to leave my stepmom. He and I moved from our home in Connersville to my grandparents' house in Middletown, and I transferred to the town's high school.
I was not a fan.
My new school was very clique-y (though I really can't fault them -- they'd all been going to school together since kindergarten), and I felt like the academics weren't on the same level as my old school. I started looking for an out, and I found it in the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities. The Academy is a residential public high school for juniors and seniors, and there's a rigorous application process (including essays and SAT scores). It was essentially college with more supervision -- we lived in a dorm at Ball State University, and had access to quite a bit of its facilities.
This quasi-college experience meant that I suddenly had freedom that I wasn't used to. I hadn't really been able to do a lot with my friends when I lived at home, but now as long as I was back by curfew, I could do pretty much what I wanted, and I took full advantage of it. I was a lot more concerned with having fun with my friends than I was with making sure I had my homework done. We had mandatory study time every night, but I usually spent it IMing my friends and listening to music instead of studying. As a result, my grades slipped. A lot.
Eventually, the retention & dismissal committee decided that they no longer felt it was a good fit for me, and on St. Patrick's day, I was kicked out. I finished the rest of my high school career in the same high school I had been so desperate to get away from. I did end up making some friends, but I still wasn't happy there, and I didn't feel like I belonged. Fortunately though, my grades got back up, and even with some failing grades leftover from the Academy, I ended high school with a 3.7 GPA.
Prior to all this, I had major college dreams. I wanted to go to Columbia. I thought of Notre Dame as my "safety school". I figured as smart as I was, I would be able to get scholarships to finance it. After my grades slipped, though, I realized I was going to have to be a little more realistic. My dad didn't make very much money, to the point where I was only able to apply to schools that didn't have an application fee (for the record, I got into and got scholarships to all of them, but they were private schools, and the most I got was a half-tuition scholarship). The only one we did pay was for Indiana University, because I had the opportunity to become part of a group specifically for first generation college students.
I got in, and between grants and scholarships, my entire freshman year of college (including books!) was paid for. At first, I was better about balancing work and a social life, but toward the end of my freshman year, I started slacking a bit, and I was put on academic probation. In the middle of fall semester my sophomore year, my best friend left IU. He had also been on academic probation, but he hadn't gone to any of his classes or do any work in weeks, and he figured it was better to just leave. He promised he wouldn't leave without saying goodbye.
But he did.
In hindsight, I should have expected it -- though I didn't realize it at the time, we didn't have a very healthy relationship because he was pretty much a ridiculously self-centered douchecanoe, but that's a story for another time. Anyway, I became very depressed. I rarely left my room, let alone my bed. I would just lay there listening to "Thinking About You" by Radiohead on repeat, crying alone in the dark. He wasn't taking my calls (okay, that's not totally true -- he took one a few days later, telling me that it was just "too painful" for him to say goodbye in person). Class and homework completely fell by the wayside.
I received a letter over Christmas break telling me I wasn't invited back for spring semester.
Never in my life have I felt like more of a waste. Everyone kept telling me that I should have learned from the first time. That just made it worse. Nobody cared about why everything went south. Nobody bothered to ask. I've always felt like mental health isn't taken seriously enough in my family.
After that, in an effort to actually get me to do something, my stepmom set it up so I could volunteer at the Head Start where my dad's aunt teaches. I ended up enjoying it so much, that I continued to go every day for the rest of the school year, and realized that I really loved early childhood education. I started looking for preschool/daycare jobs, and found one. I started as a floater, and made my way up to lead teacher. While there, I started a CDA program, which would give me a Child Development Associate credential, which is essentially the equivalent of an associate's degree. The class ended two weeks after I moved to Lafayette to be with Tom, and I was unable to complete the credential because you need to have observations and evaluations done, and I couldn't find a teaching job here.
I worked in retail for awhile, miserably, until I finally found a teaching job in West Lafayette. It was at an actual preschool too, so the job was more fun than overwhelming. But as much as I love it, my lack of degree of any sort has always been nagging me. Since I was little, I've wanted to go to college and graduate. I was going to be the first person on either side of my family to graduate, but that honor has since gone to my mama (and I couldn't be prouder!). Bachelor's degrees in early childhood ed aren't offered many places, but I figure an associate's is a good place to start, and then I can choose my course from there. I've just felt like people would take me more seriously as a teacher if I have the degree to back it up. And I don't want to deal with the humiliation of being uneducated anymore (please note this is my own personal humiliation -- I know that college isn't for everyone, and that's totally okay. I don't think less of anyone else for not attending college, but I do think less of myself).
Which brings us to today.
Today, I start college classes again for the first time in six years.
I'll be attending Ivy Tech, which is Indiana's foremost community college. If you would have asked me in high school if I ever thought I'd be attending Ivy Tech, I'd have laughed in your face. I always thought I was too good for community college, that it was somewhere you went if you couldn't get into a traditional university. But getting kicked out of IU was an extremely humbling experience for me, and I realized that with my grades, community college was my best chance of getting back into college. And really, it's not a terrible idea, even for four-year degrees -- it's much more affordable to get your general ed classes out of the way at Ivy Tech and transfer to a four-year institution.
Since between the two of us, Tom and I have three jobs and one car, I'm taking all online courses at the moment. It just works better for me. I'm taking three classes at three credits each. If it goes well, I'll keep up that course load, but if it's a bit taxing, I'll go down to two courses next semester.
I'm sure people are probably wondering what makes me think I'll be able to make school work this time. I'm sure there are people who doubt I will. But I'm confident that this is finally the right time for me to be in school. I think before, I was too immature to handle the responsibilities of being a college student away from home. I'm a lot older now, married, and used to adult responsibility. I think that, combined with sheer determination to prove everyone wrong, is going to be my formula for success this time.
Associate's degree, I'm coming for you.
And don't go too far, bachelor's, because I'll be coming for you next.