It was my senior year of college, and I was majoring in English Literature because it was the only thing I knew and knew well enough to feel competent in to pass classes. I was drawn to the Romantic and Victorian era writers and found it challenging to read Mary Shelley as well as more modern authors who evoked incredible emotion through their words like Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison. Those courses were my comfort zone, and I got lost in the literature on purpose because outside of the classroom things in my life were not so romantic. In hindsight, I chose to read the Gothic novel Frankenstein and Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God because while there was terror and sadness in those works, they were a welcome distraction from my life as a 20-year old single mother on welfare who was trudging her way through a university.
During my senior year I had a friend named Dhana (who was born and thus named what sounded like “Donna” because of her parents liked the country Ghana) who was an education major and who asked that I ride with her to do a classroom observation. It sounded like something different, and I rode along listening to her talk about her courses in education and how different they were from mine. Actually, she majored in special education and was as passionate about those “different learners” as she was about her cool hats and MC Hammer pants she seemed to wear everywhere.
It was the early 90s after all.
Dhana told me what I would be seeing in the classroom and she lit up as she talked about it, but I felt no spark or interest other than what made my friend happy. We stopped in the office to get visitor passes for a 6th grade classroom, and then she led me down the hallway to her cooperating teacher’s room where we sat in chairs at the back and she took notes. I scanned the room eagerly to see how a classroom worked. This, of course, was absurd of me because I’d been a student and seen a classroom before, but this perspective was different.
There must have been a moment for me, but I cannot recall what it was now. In any case, a spark hit me and I got the bug. Watching students raise their hands and become fully engaged in a lesson ignited me like a dry forest thirsting for the rain but instead a dropped match lit me up. I was, for all intents and purposes, on fire. This, this leading a classroom of students to knowledge, was what I wanted to do.
When we returned to the university I contacted the College of Education and signed up on the spot to now include a teaching degree with my English Literature degree. It prolonged college for over a year, but that spark was there and the fire was lit, and it has not been extinguished nearly 20 years later. In my current work as an assistant principal I get to see that spark in the teachers in my building, and I fan the flames, if necessary.
As I honed the craft of instructing students I also realized I had a gift for leadership. Leading by example is natural for me, and I firmly believe it should be. I cannot become stagnant in this role so I turn to other educational leaders to fan my flame in the work I do. One of my favorite educators who helps inspire me is Sir Ken Robinson, an English speaker and international advisor to educators who was knighted by the Queen for his service to education.
This video, a very short one giving you an idea of his passion and his sense of humor, reminds me very much of the educators in my life who have instilled faith and confidence in me as a student. That inspiration carries over into my everyday work in schools. Listening to Sir Ken Robinson very much puts that fervor into context when I consider the educators who have gone that extra mile for me.
The high school guidance counselor who knew another counselor had dismissed my claims of wanting to attend college even though I was a teen mom.
The African-American Literature professor in college who told me I was smart and intuitive and who was shocked it was the first time I had heard those words.
The Human Resource officer who hired me for my first teaching position who said, “Don’t you go apply anywhere else. I don’t want them snapping you up first!” and shocked me because it was the first and last job interview I had at my first and last job fair.
Like Sir Ken Robinson, I have had formative moments with people who had the power to make a profound impact on the important decisions I have had to make. All it took was that one person to inspire me and give me the confidence to keep working hard, and then I found another one person who encouraged me again, and it continues on and on even though I’ve been at this for nearly 20 years.
I am not done being inspired, and there is a tiny flame in me again that wants to pursue my studies further. My Life List includes earning a doctoral degree and I fanned that flame again this week.
My decision to write this sponsored post gave me a perfect opportunity to look into Capella University. In my research I found that it is a supportive, online learning community. As I am a child of the online world, it fits a lot of things in my world. I watched another video that I found on Capella’s website from an alumni named Talonda Thomas who earned her Masters in Education with a Leadership in Education Administration specialization. Her story is so like my own as a young mom who wanted to further her education that I was a bit shocked at the similarities. It was like she was just speaking my whole life. You can see more videos on the Capella Inspires YouTube and check them out on Facebook if you want to learn more about this online educational opportunity.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I would never have envisioned I would find a career in which I could make such a difference in the life of another human being, and I couldn’t do this work without having extended my education. It may be cliché to suggest I wanted my life to include something meaningful so I could give back to society and my fellow man, but it’s cliché for a reason. Those experiences are universal, and the desire to go further, yet again, with my education is nagging at me in a powerful way. But this place where I am now after getting a bachelor’s and master’s degree is a place I couldn’t have gotten to without having those educators in my life who made that profound difference. That one person was all it took.
I encourage you to leave a comment telling me about someone who has inspired you in some way, maybe an educator or a mentor who helped you to set goals for yourself you didn't even imagine.
Also, check out the Capella page on BlogHer.com for more inspirational blogger career successes stories!