Some of my most vivid memories are of elementary school. Although I consider my early years as a student pretty ordinary, after some reflection I am sure that many would agree that my experiences are beyond unique. My first reaction to this assignment was “I have no story to tell”, but after some reflection I managed to muster up a little something. Looking back, I would say that I enjoyed elementary school as hard as it may be for some to believe. I was an obedient, hard working student who completed homework assignments on time, had great study habits (parents did not have to remind me to do homework or study for tests). I was never reprimanded (at school) and never received the big “D”-DEMERITS! That’s right…public enemy number #1. Demerits were like the scarlet letter at school. Everyone knew that you got one because the teachers would either call you out in front of the entire class, hand you a slip of paper at the end of the day or just put your name on the blackboard for the entire class to gape at. At my school demerits were given out for pretty much any and everything. They were even awarded if you were caught by a staff member engaging in inappropriate activities outside of school…like attending a movie. Movies were considered to be “worldly.” I managed to get a few in from time to time because I figured the only way I would get caught is if the other person was checking out a movie as well.
I loved school, despite the many rules and consequences in place. This was all that I knew. Follow the rules, do well, and honor thy father and mother. It was a great foundation, but when that’s all that you’ve known for the last 5 years you have no concept of the “real” world. Not once do I remember asking myself the question “what do I want …what do I like?” I never really had to think for myself. It never mattered because my choices were limited. I wanted to do well in school because I did not want to disappoint teachers, parents, God or myself. I was good at everything, but most importantly I was good at following the rules. Good ole intrinsic motivation- that’s one thing Bible Baptist Academy got right or did they? Maybe it was just fear?
All of this coupled with the fact that I was the only African American female in my class from kindergarten to fifth grade along with being a “Yankee”. You heard right- the Civil War was still being fought in some places in the South in the 1980s. This goes without saying that this profoundly shaped my development. My awakening did not happen until many years later when I enrolled in my first Women’s Studies course in college. What I learned in that course has shaped who I am today- someone who believes in equal rights for all. In my case, special education is my passion and being an educator of and advocate for students with significant intellectual disabilities has become one of my charges. All students deserve a fair shake at an education that provides them with meaningful access to the general education curriculum. It is true that the future determines the past and the past determines the future. I am a witness.