The guideposts in my life regarding education stem from two quotes; one from Christopher Morley, “There is only one success-to be able to spend your life in your own way” and one from Epictetus, “Only the educated are free.” The first implies happiness, and fulfillment through independence and the second implies the method to achieve the first. It is through the implications of these two quotes that my internal metrics evaluate my education thus far. I believe that a robust appraisal also requires a full perspective as George Santayana noted as being necessary for understandings; “A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.” In this instance that requires a review of educational experiences, further definition of my personal metrics as well as several external measures.
It is very likely that my experiences as a young student served to incline me to appreciate the words from Morley and Epictetus. I loved every aspect of elementary school that pertained to the academic side of a public school education. I was fortunate to have several teachers who were wonderful role models for behavior and outlook. I delighted in discovering my strengths and in overcoming challenges. I can count on one hand the number of days when negative experiences outweighed the positive, despite being an extremely shy, awkward child with few friends. As a victim of sexual abuse, the mental exertion was a welcome distraction that kept my mind from steering towards dark places, the hours spent in the school were a haven from extremely well intentioned, but painful and irksome inquiries about my feelings and discussions about the perpetrator. I longed to move forward in life and leave everything associated with the abuse behind, and school significantly contributed to my ability to do so and to survive.
I began the process of moving forward when my extreme shyness was resolved. Due to my profound love of my school, and satisfaction of overcoming obstacles, I embraced a challenge offered by our sixth grade teachers. At the end of the year, because of budget constraints, our school was closing. The teachers requested that each sixth grade student write an essay about their experiences throughout their years at this school with one student from each class to present their essay at our graduation ceremony in the spring. My passion was evident as I spoke, and the reward of emotional responses and praise from classmates, teachers and principal, drowned every iota of shyness in my being. Unrecognizable to me at the time, this was my first taste of freedom purchased with education. I fear contemplating what my educational and life trajectory would have been without this single experience.
Despite the frequent lamentations regarding junior high years, I managed...