I was not the easiest child to raise; you can ask my parents. I now know however, what they mean when they wished upon me that someday I would have a child that acted as I did. Not only did I have great parents, but they were magical as well J.
I grew up with an undiagnosed condition called “Separation Anxiety.” I believe the onset came when we moved in the middle of my Kindergarten year in school. I don’t think anybody would have predicted it, but it had a profound affect on my early childhood. The first few years of my life I was afraid to go to school. It had nothing to do with the school or the teachers, but everything to do with the fact that I thought I was going to be left there. I know it sounds crazy, but like I said I had wonderful parents. I was completely consumed with the idea that my parents were going to leave me. I would even check the coat racks daily to see if my brother was still in school.
As a result, I did not want to be in school. The teachers actually let me lay in front of the door of the classroom for hours (sometimes I’d fall asleep). This was extremely hard on my parents, and most likely a burden for my teachers. I struggled in school. I rushed through things and eventually I just didn’t care.
My mother was told that I would never be above a “C” student during an IEP meeting when I was in third grade. I had a learning disability she was told. My mom told me this story when I was in 8thgrade. I was a smart child; I just had extreme “Separation Anxiety.” I was young, and soon I started to believe that my teachers were right. Honestly, they didn’t know any better, because I had never been diagnosed with the anxiety.
This would become the first time in my life that I can remember somebody telling me (telling my mother in this case) that I couldn’t do something. I wasn’t going to be above a “C” student. I thought back to my elementary years after my mother told me this story. I had memories of sitting in a corner during handwriting class – where I would draw figure eights with chalk on the chalkboard over and over again. I remember leaving the room for assignments and tests. As these memories filled my mind, I started to become angry. I was angry at myself, more than anything. I could do the work. I was a smart student. I wasn’t applying myself, and therefore I was doing myself a disservice. So, I did what needed to be done; I set out on a mission to excel in school and prove that I was indeed better than a “C” student.
It wasn’t the first time that I would hear the phrase “you can’t.” The love of my life was basketball when I was growing up. I traveled with my father often when he would officiate games around the area. I fell in love with the sport. I set a goal for myself, that I would get an offer to play college basketball upon graduation. As I proceeded to practice each and every day, I was met by doubters. You see, I was not the most muscular of boys in high school. In fact, I was actually quite skinny. Naturally, people didn’t think I would amount to anything, but I set out to prove them wrong.
With my mind set, I embarked on my four years of high school with motivation. The motivation came from people that told me “I couldn’t do this, or couldn’t do that.” For the next four years – if I wasn’t studying, I was playing basketball. I forgave any possible fun that I would have with friends (which today I regret), but I was on a mission to prove people wrong. I can remember shooting baskets outside in my driveway with my brothers in the dead of the winter. I always told myself that if I could shoot well with gloves on, I would be certainly be able to shoot better without them. I said the same with wearing boots. If I could crossover in boots and on a frosty surface, then I would definitely be able to do it on a gym floor.
Academically, I set out to do the best I could in every class that I took. The separation anxiety that I suffered in early childhood led to other anxieties in high school. I was somebody that suffered from test anxiety. Because, I had this anxiety I often studied for way longer than I needed to. I became a perfectionist, even though perfection was something (I did not know at the time) was unattainable.
Fast-forwarding to my senior year, I can remember a day in my English class like it was yesterday. The high school principal came in and announced the class salutatorian…a fellow classmate who excelled in many areas of school. I learned lots from her. I never expected to get it; the thought actually didn’t even cross my mind. Then the principal announced the valedictorian and sure enough he announced my name. Granted I probably took a few easier classes to get there, but I was extremely humbled and proud of myself. I had now proved somebody wrong. I turned an I can’t into an I can. Most importantly though, I proved to myself that hard work pays off.
Speaking of hard work, I was still quite busy with basketball. I was a three-year starter and did the best I could. Our team had lots of talent. We had our ups and our downs. We played in an extremely competitive district. The furthest we ever made was the first round of regionals my senior year. It was during this senior year that I turned another “I can’t” into an “I can.”
I will never forget the day after we lost out in the McLean County Tournament. I was on the bus and waiting for it to depart for home, and my coach came on and told me that somebody wanted to talk to me back in the school. My second dream and motivation was about to come true. A college coach was interested in me and wanted me to come and play for them. I walked back on the bus and was overcome with joy. Something that I had dreamed about as a child had come to reality.
This was my story. What is yours? How many times as educators do we doubt that our students can or cannot do something? How many times have you been told that you can’t do something? What is your motivation? My motivation has always been my dream killers. There is nothing worse in life than somebody doubting your ability or dreams. Let me tell you this, and I know you have heard it before. You “can.” It’s as simple as that. If you put your mind to it, you can achieve it. How many times have you been told this? As educators we need to fuel the dreams of our students. When a child walks through our doors with their head on the floor, we need to pick them up. When a child cries, we need to wipe away the tears. When a child is frustrated, we need to lend our ears. When a child is excited, we need to be excited with them. When a child succeeds, we need to be the first to congratulate them. We have the power to help make dreams come true. Are you a dream killer, or dream driver?
It’s time to shout out the doubt.
I know sleeping on the classroom floor seems quite odd, and I always wondered by the teachers let me do it. Maybe they knew I was dreaming of the “some day.” The some day in my life that I would be writing about the significant impact it had on my life. Do me a favor and tell a child that they “can” today. Tell them that they matter. Dreams come true. Failure is not final. Turn “I Cants into I Cans.”
Disclaimer: As always my blogs are my thoughts that are quickly jotted into the document. A wrong there, their, or they’re may have presented itself. A comma here, there, or nowhere may have also been mistaken. I do not have my blogs critiqued and I never write a second draft. Please forgive me for I not no wut I rite sumtimes.