In the beginning, I was doe eyed and innocent. Not just to the depravity of society growing up on a farm in West Virginia, but to the deranged things that could befall a child in my educational charge. I was ignorant to poverty and the cycles that lie within. Being raised with loving doting parents, I was ignorant to neglect and abuse. Living in rural West Virginia I was ignorant of diversity and the ongoing battles of racism that occurs in our country. I had yet to hear another language spoken directly to me other than from my eclectic french teacher in high school. I was ignorant. Basically folks, I was brand spankin new… not just to the field of teaching with my brand new shiny degree, but to the world.
Like all new teachers, I had a valiant idea of purpose and mission to change the world one child at a time. I think of that doe eyed naive girl with a pony tail and literally a head full of hopes and dreams. She’s so refreshing to think about. Untainted by reality, that girl had yet to sit across from a parent teacher conference where the parents had overdosed in the living room and the children were with their bodies for three days before being found. That girl had yet to buy shoes for the child walking to school in the snow in sandals or buy pull ups for the kindergartener who had multiple accidents daily due to the trauma his rear end had suffered at the hands of a sexual predator. That girl…. was that girl equipped to handle that 8th grade class in the depths of inner city central Florida where the Latin Kings operated in back of the school and the Crypts to the East of the playground? Good lord, no… but she did. How? I had a mentor who actually wanted me to succeed, number one. I was lucky. I had a buddy. My mentor was the 6th grade Dean of Students and she helped me craft a skillset that fit the needs of my struggling special needs 8th graders most of whom were products of their own traumatic environments of which there was no way I could ever relate. So how did I reach them? Mandy Hale said “To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.” Thats how that young doe-eyed farm girl was able to reach the children of gang bangers and drug lords in inner city Orlando, Florida sixteen years ago.