Friday, February 10, 2012


Last night I attended a lecture given by a professor who was supposed to discuss the changes that need to be made to our urban education systems. Although I didn't feel that the lecturer gave a well-constructed and insightful talk, it did force me to start thinking about the state of education in America.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to have the kind of educational support I received growing up.

I attended a public elementary school for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades in an urban area of North Carolina - an important introduction into the education system which allowed me to see the structure of a 7-hour regimented school day, experience planned play-time, and learn at the same pace as 25 other squirming 5-year-olds.

In the 3rd grade, I started being homeschooled with my 2 younger sisters. This was a FANTASTIC environment for learning - while my mother made sure I covered all subjects every school day, I was able to choose the order in which I completed them, the pace at which I worked through them, and have the ability to teach myself new material. I ate 3 square home-cooked meals a day, had some of my lessons with my sisters (and homework assignments appropriate for each of our grade levels), attended homeschool group meetings (for more learning opportunities, playing with other kids, and field trips), and had a mom who could answer my questions whenever I needed her to if I was stumped. I didn't have a 'tiger mom' or a 'helicopter mom' but I did have a mom who made sure my sisters and I completed our educational requirements, took music lessons, joined youth organizations to round out our 'soft skills,' and learned to be independent and self-sufficient. By the end of 8th grade I was already starting pre-calculus (my favorite) and biology - subjects I most certainly wouldn't have been able to cover in a public school system until high school.

I did attend a public high school in rural North Carolina - the one where my dad was a teacher. Being an outgoing person, I transitioned easily into public school and immediately started taking honors and AP classes, joined the marching band and soccer and cross country teams, and started taking my dad's business classes. I was immediately hooked on the subject and continued to take his classes and participate in DECA, an organization for marketing students. My dad encouraged me to compete in business plan competitions and it's with his help that I was able to learn the basics of business and how to write with a business mindset. I got the chance to compete at the local, state, and national level with DECA and got to have my dad there coaching me every step of the way. Without both of my parents helping me grow and learn and experience so much, there's no way I could have graduated salutatorian of my high school graduating class and gotten into the best public college in the U.S. - UNC Chapel Hill.

I'm lucky enough to have experienced an education where I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had parents who were rooting for me to succeed academically. I had been told from an early age that I would do well in school, I would try out different clubs, sports, and musical instruments, I would go to college, I would study abroad, and I would graduate from all levels of school I attended. Because of their support and my own personal drive, I did accomplish all of those things.

Now all this is not to say that the way I experienced school is the only right way to receive an education - there are PLENTY of alternative ways (public, private, or homeschool) to be a fulfilled and accomplished learner. I'm not trying to sound like a self-important braggart either; I'm simply telling you my educational story - I work with 22 other bright, motivated, and driven recent college-grads who ended up at the same 'ultimate goal' (i.e. our current job position) I did while each coming from uniquely different educational backgrounds (complete with awards, accomplishments, and Ivy league degrees). I'm not saying I'm an expert on the subject of educational policy and reform, but I'm not completely ignorant either because I've experienced it and heard about it from the perspective of actual educators. I was taught at home and had an excellent teacher there. I had great high school teachers - my dad, Mr. Bobbe, Mr. Babb, Mr. Goodman, Woody, Mr. Buckner - and bad ones (who shall remain unnamed). I had award-winning college professors - Mr. McCombs, my Spongebob and Southpark-loving Calc II teacher, and Setzer, my trail-blazing, book-writing business communications teacher; and professors who decided to ride on the coattails of their tenure and take the easy road to retirement. I've gotten to go through the system firsthand, and my experiences are hot off the press. And now, at age 24, I'm in my 2nd job post-college and work in an industry where the state of our educational system as at the forefront of everyone's mind, including my own.

My dad is now a career development coordinator and he works hard to help high school students in my rural hometown to get real work experience in local internships. My mom is an ESL instructor who coordinates the ESL program at the community college across 3 counties while teaching multiple classes a week to help many from the local Hispanic population learn English. I work at a company that's working hard to create a comprehensive software solution to help today's learners transition from K12 to post-secondary school to careers.

What are YOU doing to help educational reform?

**Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer, my colleagues, my parents, or anyone else.**
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