Hi!!!! My name is Cathleen. My mother always told me that in order to tell a story properly a person has to start at the beginning . This story has a happy ending… I swear.
In all due respect Beauty and The Beast was a fairly big craze when I developed my dream of being a teapot. My mother allowed me to practice my dream on her dining room table fairly often. I was an avid dreamer, quiet, and creative type kind of kid. I started school. Kindergarten was a breeze…naps…recess.. and show and tell! I liked school. I could be creative and try new things. I was on FIRE! Until 1st grade…
I went home crushed and defeated for the first time in my life. I started to wonder about what I should do with my tiny 1st grade self. I started trying new things, but the fear of public rejection still lingered. I would love to tell you that my little first grade self decided to not listen to the adults in my life, but its pretty hard defying the people who control the flow of juice in the classroom.
Honestly, the time between 1st and 3rd grade was a struggle for me. I remember my mom sent me to summer school and I had no idea why. It was discovered sometime during 2nd grade I had dyslexia. Quickly I was given an IEP and accommodations to help me. I was taught strategies, tricks, and ways to read for understanding. However, that first crush of defeat and fear started to sink in even deeper. Each of my years in elementary school could be defined by simple sentences meant to help keep me “grounded” in reality.
Enter the protagonist my middle school English teacher….from the moment I entered her class I was not defined by my past, by my disability, or by anything. I was supposed to be the best me I could be. (Teachers, administrators, and educational enthusiasts reading this…yes, belief has the power to change ANYONE.)
I would love to tell you in a matter of minutes I was an amazing student. She waved her cape and the story ended with me riding off into the sunset as the amazing person I was always meant to be. No. She started me on the journey to face the road of anxiety and crippling fear that was cemented in my mind from being a struggling learner. She gave me her SPARK…
I had love and understanding for the first time in school. Mrs. Garrett gave me a foundation that I could flourish with, but my teachers from the past still loomed in my head. Everyday as I left her classroom she would tell every student that they were loved. I will admit it became a bit mechanical by the end of the year, but some days I needed that love to just keep battling the day. I needed her more than she would ever know. The funny part of this story is…I never talked to her until the year was half over. She put forth such great effort daily and never even know that she was my lifeline.
One day in January she announced that they were seeking students to enter the new honors classes for Language Arts. I knew that I would not get in on account of my disability and the fact that I was below grade level in reading. Fear does some crazy things to a person. I was facing fear and I wanted to know what to do…so I went up and I asked her…
I told her my new dream was to get into honors classes and that I wanted to bring people joy like her. The part I was not ready for was the fact that she told me things would be tough. She was ALWAYS encouraging, but she never would set a student up for failure. We could take tests over and over. We could try a homework assignment again. We could redo that project for a better grade. She used to say life doesn’t just give you one shot and then you are a failure. Opportunities only stop when a person stops trying.
She told me things would be tough. She told me I would have to battle my fears. She told me to shrink my fear. However, fear is a lot smaller when you have the love of an educator to shine light on your doubts.
Well I wrote down my fears. I didn’t lose my fear…but I started to become a fear less student. I let my fears become less so I could live up to the potential I wanted for myself. Mrs. Garrett worked with me one on one after school to help me practice my reading and comprehension. I was afraid every second of that year, but her love and guidance kept me going.
The end of the year came all too quickly. My mom got a letter in the mail that I was accepted into the new honors class for the next school year. I was without words for what this woman had done for me. So….I decided in that moment I was going to pay her back. They say the greatest form of flattery is imitation…so I became what she was to me…a difference maker.
A big thank you to Sean Gaillard who helped remind me that the world needs my story! This is the start of my chronicles to SPARK: Fearless Learning in the world.