Friday, July 31, 2015

It's Never Too Late

July 31, 2015

About 18 years ago, I reached a point in my academic career where I was ready to be not just a teacher, but a student again.  I learned about a Master's Program in English Literature that was geared toward teachers.  It was a two-year summer intensive program at UC Irvine, and something about the timing just seemed right.

SEEMED right, yes.  And mostly, it was.  I loved being in the classroom again.  My sister lived near Irvine, so I traveled down south to stay with her Monday-Thursday, and I came home again Thursday night through Sunday.  I didn't have to pay any additional for housing, and I had study time in the evenings while I was there, so that part was great.  The difficult thing was I was a mom to two young children (4 and 18 mo.), so every week during those summers I was without them part of every week. Their dad, who is also a teacher, took full-time daddy duty on my school days, and when I was home I was on full-time.  It was exhausting, and I was guilt-ridden often (especially when I was told by a close family member how selfish I was for abandoning my children--to their dad!--and that they would suffer life-long rejection issues because of it).  But, I also wanted to show myself and some day my children that I was capable of this kind of success through perseverance and hard work.  I wanted to be a good role model for them.

At some point after I'd enrolled in the program, but before classes started, I discovered that I was pregnant with my third child.  I was elated, but didn't really process the additional logistical hurdles this would create.  The first summer went as planned, but during the following school year, she was born, which meant she traveled down with me to Irvine during my 4 day school week during the second summer.  I enlisted one my sister's good friends, who was a stay at home mom, to watch her while I was in classes, and I would drive over in between my classes to nurse her.  In the evenings, of course, she was at my sister's with me. I studied with her in my lap or by my side, and then on Thursday evenings we'd make the four hour drive back home together.  It was even more of a juggling act, but we managed.  I completed all of my coursework and even managed to get my premise and quite a bit of my rough thesis worked out before the session was over, and then I packed up and headed back home to my husband and oldest children for good.

I had a year to process and finish my thesis.  I didn't do it.  There are lots of excuses why I didn't do it--at home, with three children five and under, and a husband, and a full time teaching job, and all of my household responsibilities, well, it just seemed I couldn't justify locking myself away to work on a paper when all of these other needs were just on the other side of the door.  Four hours away when I was taking classes, I could compartmentalize.  At home? I found it nearly impossible.  And I didn't WANT to be away from my babies.  I found it easy to drop my thesis to the bottom of my priority list, which, by the way, was a very long list.  I'm sure lots of folks will say I shouldn't have taken on the task to begin with; just as many will say if I had already sacrificed all of my time with my family anyway, it was a waste not to stick to it and finish it out.  Both of those things are probably true.  But so is it true that pursuing my education was a worthwhile and vital thing.  These things contradict each other and are simultaneously true.

The bottom line is, I didn't finish then.  And it has haunted me every since.  I don't see it as a waste of time, because I grew from the classes I took.  I don't even see it as a waste of money, since I do earn more because of the additional classes I took.  I do, however, see it as a failure on my part--a shortcoming I haven't rectified. I've always been embarrassed that I set out to get my Master's Degree, and I didn't cross the finish line.  Once the finish line got so far away from me, I didn't even know how to jump back into the race.

Now, 18 years later, a new opportunity has made itself available. Fresno State has a Master's in Education with an Emphasis in Reading (with a Reading Specialist Credential) that they are building a new cohort for with teachers in our district and a neighboring one.  Reading is a passion of mine; the teaching of critical reading to high school students is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.  I had no idea there was such a program, let alone one offered right here in my own backyard.  To have become aware of it now that my children are (mostly) grown and independent feels like a second chance for redemption.  I've been saying for years that I would eventually go back and finish my Master's Degree, but honestly I think I didn't really believe it.   It's been so buried on my life's 'To Do' list that I didn't know if I would ever really get to it.  And yet, here it is.  I have applied, and have been accepted.  It's never too late--and I can't wait to get started.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Looking Back Doesn't Mean Never Having Left

July 24, 2015

This is a milestone year for me--I've got my 30th high school reunion coming up shortly.  In addition, the high school where I teach is getting ready to host its 20th reunion for the first graduating class of our school--a class of students I taught when I was in my second year of teaching.  I'm very much looking forward to both of these reunions and the chance it will give me to reconnect with people I have not seen in a very, very long time.

There are several people who graduated with me who I remain close with and see on a regular basis still.  Similarly, there are students from that first graduating class of my current school with whom I have kept in close contact over the years.  Then there are folks I see only online, mostly through the world of Facebook.  These are people with whom I might not have been especially close, or for whom geography plays a role in the fact that I haven't seen them in real life much, but they are people I like to interact with and celebrate life's successes with.  There are also many people I haven't connected with at all over the years for whatever reason, but I'd be thrilled to see them at a reunion and see where their life's path has taken them.

Some people feel that high school reunions are all but obsolete in the days in which it's as easy as a click on an internet search to know whatever-happened-to-him/her, and I can understand that mindset to an extent, but nothing is the same as the good old fashioned face-to-face conversation a reunion provides.  The thing that is really amazing to me though, is the number of people who think that going to a high school reunion means you are stuck in the past--a stereotypical jock or cheerleader artificially trying to recreate and relive the glory days.  There are people who deem themselves as somehow 'above' the desire to meet up with old acquaintances because they feel if there was any reason to associate with them now, they'd never have lost touch to begin with. There are actually lots of films that deal with this very theme.  I find that a little weird, though, honestly.  Sure, there are people you might meet up with at a reunion that you didn't like before and you still wouldn't necessarily hang out with on a regular basis. But what's the harm in finding yourself in a room with a couple of those folks and wishing them well and then moving on your merry way?  I focus more on the fact that we have all traveled divergent paths and have grown and changed through all of our varied experiences.  I mean, I'm not the same person I was 30 years ago--I don't know anybody who is.  We've all (or at least most of us) grown up. Why on earth would I deprive myself of the opportunity to get to know people who could have become pretty great folks for fear of running into one or two who didn't?  Do we do that in regular, every day life, too?  I can't meet anybody else new, because one of them might not be nice?  Not me, man. I, for one, am looking forward to meeting some old acquaintances anew, and who knows--maybe finding some new friends.