Just My Thoughts: Teaching

Log #1 for Teaching College Comp

After our first classroom discussion, I began to pick at my brain about what my true interest in teaching writing could possibly be. I wholeheartedly believe that education is the key to understanding and accepting or coming to terms with the world around you. The paper below is the first paper I wrote for my Civic Literacy course during my undergraduate studies. The given prompt was: What is it the background of your education and what do you still want to learn today? After writing this paper, it wasn’t until I began to reflect back on things and write about them that I could understand the cause and effect relationship of writing and education.

I thought this paper would be a good example of my first log because these are all my preconceived notions of what an education can do for a person, primarily writing because that is what I earned my degree in. Looking back on how I have been taught writing has been your normal 5-paragraph essay strategy; however, because of my love for poetry, I’ve always searched for a different way at approaching that strategy.

The essay below connects with what we’re doing in WR600 because to me, this is what an education is. Why teach writing if we don’t know the importance of it? In my discussion with you, the professor, and myself I hope to use this log as a means of not only finding out the importance of writing, but also how writing and teaching writing can knock down barriers and create a path of understanding and acceptance. It will be an interesting log to discover these answers with the help of the class, discussions, and the assigned readings.

School, rather education, has shown me a lot about not only my community, but also the world in which we live. Coming from an urban community, the public school systems have failed majority of its residents due to lack of funds, facility upkeep, or the hindrance of students caused by teachers who work for a salary instead of the self satisfaction one gains from instilling valuable lessons to another peer or student. This is not only shown through personal experience, but from the perspective of my friends who attended these institutions either barely graduating from high school or dropping out once they realized that school could not teach them a craft for success.

From pre-school up to the eighth grade, I attended a catholic elementary school that was primarily African-American although there was one white student named Bernardo. Bernardo attended the school from kindergarten until the second grade. The parents of most of my peers ranged from middle to lower-middle class.

I remember catching the bus with three older kids when I was in kindergarten they were in the 8th grade. There was Ed who is now an accountant, Carl who threw his life away after he lost a football scholarship in college due to his use of drugs, and Janice who didn’t attend college and now lives at home with her parents.

It wasn’t until I was old enough to catch the bus on my own and watch after a younger neighbor who went to school with me too that I started to understand the difference between my friends from the neighborhood and school.

There was always at least one person who was slow at reading in my classes; however, most of my friends who attended public school could not read at all. When kids were talking about who could read I remember there was this Goosebump book titled, “Say Cheese and Die” and when asked to read it, a friend of mine pronounced the title as “Say Choose and Die.”

Also, when public school would be out of school because of a holiday or closing because of no air conditioned rooms during the warmer seasons, we would have our recess in the back of the church that constituted my elementary school. My school was located in the heart of the so-called ghetto where neighboring kids would stumble and throw rocks at us because they thought we were too good for them.

As I look back at those days, I have to admit to myself that my classmates and I were too good for them on an intellectual level; however, I grew up around the corner in the same area if not poorer place, but I still could not understand the difference yet.

When taking placement exams to test into a good catholic or private high school, I had to take two different tests because I wanted to attend the best schools in the area. The test that we had to take every year or so which was a normal standardized test I passed in the top 90 percentile of people my age; however, when I took the test for the top high schools in the city or surrounding area, I scored in the lowest 10 percentile. There were words and analogies that I had no clue what they meant.

I asked my mom why she paid tuition for me to get an education if I wasn’t learning what all the “important” people were learning. Looking back on that now after having a conversation with my mom, I have come to understand that you can conclude money rules the world. In order to teach you need funds. In order to have any type of successful funds, you need money. Money! Money! Money!

Although I attended a catholic elementary school, the education was not at all that great, similar to a public school after they made uniforms mandatory. An education was to do a lot about the social-economic structure of its surrounding area, which I would later understand the effect that had on my education.

In my 9th grade year of high school, I got to attend the school I wanted to, a Jesuit high school similar to that of Loyola. Had I not attended this school, I would not be the man I am today. The Jesuit school instilled a sense of responsibility with its motto- Be a man for others. Being a man for others is something that is still taught today even at Loyola. Had John Newman went to this school, he would say that the school “shows one how to accommodate himself to others.”

This school was a majority white school with a wide range of incomes; however, low income students were usually the minority students. Most of the African-American students who went to school with me my ninth grade year were either really smart or played a sport, sad to say.

It is here where I learned more than I could ever learn in a year. I learned things like Algebra, French, and how to write. I really learned how to write freshman year in high school. My three greatest courses today I learned in the 9th grade.

Although this was the place that I loved, I had to leave due to a divorce with my parents. My mom could not take on the heavy tuition without help and my dad had made it clear that he was not going to help his son with school anymore. I loved my high school because of the environment. Most of the public high schools in our nation’s capital is where most of my friends lost their friends to violence.

A week before my 10th grade year, my mom got the word that my dad had not been paying my tuition that was $13,000. I was so upset that I couldn’t return because I had done the summer reading. The rest of my life was at stake and I was upset that I didn’t do the summer reading.

After attending catholic school for my whole life, I had to go to public school. I attended a public school in Washington, DC for three weeks. These were the longest three weeks of my life. I was used to a uniform, so I had to go school shopping and all, but that was minute to the things that were to come.

Walking into the guidance counselor’s office, I gave him my transcripts and he immediately sent me to another office. I had to get an entirely new schedule. With a 9th grade education in a private school, at a public school I took classes such as AP Calculus, AP Biology, and English IV. No way in hell was I to continue at that school my mom thought because what classes would I take when I was actually in my senior year of high school?

School seemed like a whole new world. I had never gone through a metal detector to go to class before in my life. The entire school was African-American, and it seemed to me that the school received a Christmas present from the cities which were actual usable textbooks. Students fought everyday after school and even at lunch. Instead of having your usual cliques of nerds, bullies, and athletes, you had your different neighborhoods. At home, a neighborhood is basically called a gang on the news channels.

This was no learning environment at all. It seemed more like a babysitting place where parents forced their children to go as they did their own thing; however, parents didn’t even force their own children to go.

I learned at a young age or started to see that most learning systems in urban areas are inadequate learning environments as I could see from the behavior and morale of most of my friends and similar-situation peers.

Three weeks into the tenth grade, I attended another catholic high school less prestigious than my 9th grade high school; however, it exhibited more diversity among students with different income and social class statuses. This is the school I would eventually graduate from and receive an education. I learned a lot here, but not as much as I would have had I stayed at the Jesuit school.

Most of my friends who I kept in contact with would get a call from me and I would say, “Son, I got a 4.2 this quarter,” and they would always say well you do go to McNamara as if their school was better. But it was.

The high school I went to in the 9th grade prepared me for the lack of diversity at Loyola; nonetheless, I receive a great education although I feel a little bit uncomfortable when subjects such as Obama, black literature and poetry, slavery, and et cetera are brought up in classes. My education thus far has shown me that if you want the best, you have to pay the most. It has also shown me a major rift in how education is handled from the dirt-poor areas to the rich suburban areas and al the areas in-between too.

Over the years of my education I have learned to be a man for others and how to live and do unto others what I would have done unto myself. The Jesuit ideals that have been taught to me may not be practiced everyday; however, I “know when to speak and when to be silent,” as Newman would say.

I have learned that service is a daily part of life, from the soup kitchen I would work in during my lunch when it was the long period from the service project I had to complete in order to graduate from school.

School has shown me the power of an education. The mind is the most powerful tool. While the tongue reflects the mind’s thoughts, only when the two are used in an intellectual way can change be brought about. Most of my friends today think the world is against them. As it may seem so, I told them to read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I wish the world could see the effect that little piece of literature had on them. Had they got that kind of teaching in school then they may have had a chance in the world earlier in life.

In closing, things that I still want to learn is something that I cannot answer. There are people that would love to know everything; however, with what my education has shown me, I do not want the answers to everything. Instead of eating the fruit of knowledge, I would rather have the grower of the tree tell me, than eat the fruit and know for myself.

But if I had to still learn something, I don’t think that I could find it at Loyola. Newman says, “He is at home in any society, he has common ground with every class,” but although I may be at home in any society because my education has introduced me to the different societies, I don’t think that Loyola can put me on common ground with every class because there will always remain barriers that exist between the classes always.

Suffering is part of the human condition according to Pope Benedict and St. Augustine; therefore, there will always be a gap; however, once we find a way to bridge that gap, we may all understand each other on a common ground. If my education has taught me anything, it is that in order to bridge that gap, we need to start at the homes and in the places where education takes place.

I just really want to learn how to make a difference and change the world, but that may be too much to ask in today’s society.