Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Failures of Learning Lead to Success

By Theresa Shadrix

Education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

In July of this year, I received an email that I failed two of my English competency exam questions and would not graduate with a Masters of Secondary Education/English Language Arts as planned.

Ten days later, I flew to San Francisco as one of ten inaugural IDEO Teachers Guild fellows.

How does a failure like me get chosen to be among so many winners, I wondered?

Learning has never been easy for me. I have failed more times than I care to admit. I don’t know what it’s like to make the highest grade in the class or to be recognized at numerous honor award ceremonies.

My high school guidance counselor told me that I was not college material and, instead of pursuing journalism or teaching, I should get married. On paper, I wasn’t college material. It didn’t seem to matter that a house fire left me homeless during my senior year. Or that my parent’s divorce was so tumultuous that my younger brother was put in foster care.

The reality is that I almost didn’t finish my undergraduate degree. But, the whispers of my grandmothers to "get an education" were loud and constant. So, after I married in 1991, I worked full time and matriculated at a local university. In my last semester, I took 21 hours, was pregnant with my first son, and made the Dean’s List. I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in 1996. 

Education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

I worked as a social worker and then as a journalist for several years. When I turned 40, I wanted to become a teacher and devote my life to helping students who need encouragement to excel and learn beyond their expectations. So, I started graduate school and accepted a position as a Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher. I took night and online courses, while learning a new career as a full time teacher. 

It wasn't easy, but it was an adventure of learning. You see, education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

The devastation of failing two competency questions this summer was a reminder to me that I did not belong among the highly educated. 

It didn’t matter that I worked full-time as a certified CTE teacher while pursuing a graduate degree and was a wife and mother of two.

It didn’t matter that I passed two national NOCTI exams in Graphic Communications and Advertising & Design and two national Praxis exams in Secondary Education and English Language Arts. It didn’t matter to me I passed the state Basic Skills exam and national edTPA.

It didn't matter that I passed four college competency questions in secondary education and two in English Language Arts.

All that mattered to me was I failed two questions. 
I will learn from this failure in hopes it will help me succeed. Then, I will share with my students. I hope that it will help them realize that failures are not the barriers to learning. Giving up is the barrier. In order to have success, we must have failures. In order to be educated, we have to learn.  

I don’t blame these two professors for my failures. They are geniuses who should not lower their expectations because of what I lack. They don’t know my journey or my story or that books have been companions to me during many tough trials. They don't know I started graduate school in 2011 and that I pray this journey will end in November when I retake the exam questions.

They don't know that education has never embraced me, but I have pursued it like a relentless groupie.

Edit: One week after my mother-in-law passed away, I took the exam again. Considering the emotional toll of what I had been going through, I barely remember the day. I did pass and am grateful to those who encouraged me in my journey.