Monday, March 1, 2010

Realizing Dreams

My Daddy was a hard working man. He was also brilliant when it came to ideas that required common sense. (My mother always said he could hold an entire Chevrolet engine together with electrical tape.) He was no academian, though, and was actually a junior high school dropout. I remember every year I would take home the Student Data Sheet that my mother would complete on the first day of school. It always had a category for "highest education of parents." My mother would check "associate's degree" for herself and whatever random school year she would decide on for my Daddy. Sometimes she'd check 11th grade, sometimes another one, but she knew better than to check the box beside "high school graduate."

It wasn't until one of Daddy's many hospital stays on the cancer floor of Duke University Medical Center that we finally learned the truth. The nurse methodically asked each question on the patient intake form, and when she got to "highest level of education," my very sick father answered, "Seventh."

Had I not been so concerned over his health and totally committed to his care, I may have fallen out the door of that extremely small hospital room. Seventh grade. The very ages of the students I was teaching that year! I imagined my students, any one of them, being on their own at that moment. It was beyond imagination.

I've heard romanticized stories of my Daddy having to drop out of school to help support the family (not unheard of back in the 1940's), riding on the back of a milk truck, delivering milk to rural North Carolina. However, truth be told, I bet my Daddy left that junior high hooping and hollering, happy to be away from the requirements of school work.

I have more than one memory of Daddy handing me the newspaper and asking me a word or two. I tell my reading students about him, about how he worked hard to compensate for what he didn't have in book smarts, and how surprised I am that I grew up loving to read and write.

But I didn't grow up with an extensive vocabulary or skill in writing technique - I've tried to pick up a few things along the way to my master's degree. That's why today, when my book hit the shelf at Barnes and Noble, it was a special type of dream come true.


From my first essay (on the Vietnam War) that won an honorable mention when I was, myself, in seventh grade...to the personal writing I share with my students, including lamentations over my father's death...to this blog, I have always loved to write as a way to express my feelings...but I'm no J.K. Rowling. What I do is write what I know, stories about my students, my family, and me...topics that don't require too much imagination because I lived them.

So it'll definitely be a dream come true when I see my book on that shelf. It's a long way from that seventh grade essay...

4 comments:

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Cindy, congratulations! I am so happy for you. You are a wonderful educator and your journey through teaching and writing is an inspiration.

Best,

Lyn

john in nc said...

Cindi - my book arrived from Amazon and I'm eagerly devouring it. Your message of hope and your understanding of how the American public school system has been the symbol of that hope for so long is really important right now. Thanks for telling your story so well.

Webmaster said...

We must realize our dreams with hardwork.
Regards,
elementary school teacher

Anonymous said...

I feel that the author will be able relate to her students more that she has experience what they are experiencing today, most students parents are not college graduates and some may even be high school dropouts, the fact that she as their teacher has a story to share similar to theirs, they are better to identify with her.