My younger days were spent in the outdoors climbing trees, playing Dark Tag with my younger brother and two older twin sisters and catching crawdads from the stream that ran through the valley floor in front of my parents house in a rural area of Portland, Oregon. I was a little boy with freedom to roam and the space to do it.
As I grew, so too did my imagination. My father was a complex and highly intelligent man who always lectured and never listened. There was little space for my opinions and thoughts in our relationship, so I turned inward to a world of imagination and day-dreams to survive the rigidity of his lectures.
The emotional storm I felt from the turmoil of my parents relationship and the power of a vivid imagination honed at the heel of a monotonous drone left me unprepared for school. The required structure and dedication were beyond me and hid my intelligence and curiosity from my teachers and to a certain extent, myself. It probably didn’t help that my father forged a birth certificate and placed me in school a year early.
Thanks to social promotion I was passed from grade-to-grade without ever learning how to be a student. It didn’t matter so much that I wasn’t the best student in elementary school, and it didn’t catch up with me in middle school. I played sports. I had friends. I day-dreamed in my classes and didn’t do my homework, and I hid my report cards from my parents whenever possible.
My bad habits caught up with me in high school. I failed most of my classes my freshman year and became academically ineligible to play sports. Through epiphany and hard work, I was able to play sports again and I started to be slightly more successful at school. However, the turmoil of it all and a transfer to another high school my senior year left me disenfranchised. I ultimately never graduated from high school.
After a failed stint at community college, moving away from Portland to Los Angeles and a two month backpacking trip through Europe, I realized two things: The first was that I actually liked learning when I could control it. The second was that I was a reader, a dreamer and a writer. I had been doing things all those years as a failed student that no one, not even myself, had realized. I may have failed my classes and never opened the books I was assigned in school, but I went home to read and dream. No matter what happened during the day, I went home at night to live and learn from stories.
With a great deal of support from my mother, I went back to community college, where with new-found motivation and understanding, I became a successful student. I got a 4.0 GPA my first term back. Reflection on my own experiences led me to the realization that I wanted to become a teacher to help all those students who were like myself–unprepared to access their abilities and interests because of the other things happening in their lives.
And that is exactly what I did. I finished community college as quickly as possible and transferred to Portland State University and majored in English. From Portland State University, I went to the University of Washington for my Masters in Teaching. I then taught English at Kentwood High School for three years, where I worked to become a teacher deeply committed to showing compassion to students and to ensuring that no student would be left behind in the way I almost was.
Ultimately, I realized I wanted more of an ability to impact the lives of my students. I recognized that I could do a great deal as a teacher, but there was so much more that the educational system as a whole can and needs to do to fully actualize all students, so I entered the Danforth Educational Leadership Program at the University of Washington.
Instead of applying to be an assistant principal or going back to the classroom on completion of my program, I realized that it was time to dedicate myself to writing. There are so many stories that live within me that I need to write down. It is time to dream them on paper and organize them for others to see.
I also hope to inspire my students and children everywhere to belive in themselves, especially in the face of an educational system that limits the opportunity for individualism and creativity.