I have been thinking a lot about education lately. That only seems fitting since I am, in fact, an educator. But in the context of my life, I see that the effects of an education can have so many facets. I have worked as an educator now for nearly 27 years, if you count my years as a stay-at-home mom, which I do because every single stay-at-home day was filled with a multitude of teachable moments. As I type this, I am sitting with my daughter while she works on her homework, pausing only to affirm her sentence syntax and grammar with me while she writes her paper for her AP English class. I have taught high school English classes about American literature and basic grammar, preschool Chinese students English through nursery rhymes and songs and elder Chinese students about American customs and culture. For the last seven years, I have worked as a public school librarian in highly impacted schools. This year, I have transferred to a school whose student population is somewhat foreign to me– they read voraciously and have impeccable manners. I am adapting. It is a good place to find myself in now.
I have always loved school. Even when school was the hardest for me- like when I was getting my first C followed by my first D in freshman algebra or my first year teaching high school juniors when I was merely 5 years older than they were or, say, just a year ago when I was severely burning out in my 7th year in highly impacted schools- I always loved school. I could always find a peer to laugh with or one or two students to reach out to and to help them work their way to a good grade or to help a non-reader find a great book to love. School has been a second home for me, always. Life-long learning is an essential core of my being.
In my extended family, mine is the first generation to go on to and graduate from college. But that is not to say that education was not valued. It was simply something that we had to work towards to attain. Grandma got that ball rolling. From what I have heard and been able to glean from family records, Grandma was the first person in her family to graduate from high school. I found a small journal that had been grandma’s when she was just a freshman in high school.
One of the things I love most about this little journal of grandma’s is that it allows me to see into her adolescent life. She went to parties and laughed with her friends. She argued with her father and suffered through embarrassing moments. And, she loved high school. As I read through her journal, I see that grades and learning were not her ideal focus, much like most adolescent teens, really. But that school was a social event. School was THE social event. By the time I got to high school, I valued my education there as a means towards and end– I would be going on to college. But for grandma, extending her education beyond high school was never even a part of any discussion or any assumption. It was the time. It was not assumed that women would go on to college. Why? What for?
Post graduation, grandma was married. As my math makes out, grandma was married before she graduated from high school, actually. She would have been having babies and caring for her budding new family from that time forward. Her education took on a new twist- a practical turn. How does one feed a family on a depression income? How does one survive the death of an infant? How does one persevere through everything life throws at you without losing your love and zeal for life through it all?
I think that was the one thing that grandma needed to understand the most but I doubt that she learned that in high school. She learned that as she made her way through her life, slogging through the day to day of survival, not necessarily loving every moment, but loving the means to the ends of those moments. Those were her rewards- the family she raised, the children she held, the kisses she gave and received. Laughter. Love. She may not have learned it in high school but she learned it somewhere. Church. Home. Daily interactions with those she loved and valued.
So, as an educator today, in our educational climate of data driven instruction, data-driven everything, how do I contribute Grace to those whose education has been entrusted to me? When I am asked to quantify every action, every moment of instruction, I wonder how does the data recognize and value Grace? What instrument measures the impact of a life lived in grace and love?
The impact of the grace and love of my grands cannot be measured but their value is constantly in my heart.