At age 10 I was tested for my reading deficits. My teachers thought I could potentially require special educations services. I was charismatic and friendly, but struggling. The only thing saving me was my never die attitude and a few subjects I really enjoyed. My reading fluency and comprehension was well below my grade level and my math computation was adequate at best. Then one day I realized that as hard as some teachers wanted to help me, the only one at the end of the day that could save me… was me.
Fast forward to high school, I am flourishing in all grade appropriate classes and a few about the average track. My GPA is about 3.5 and I was accepted in to National Honor Society. The only problem is taking tests. This goes along with the joke by Daniel Tosh, “I’m a bad test taker. No, you mean you’re stupid. Ohhh, you struggle with the piece where we find out what you know. I can totally relate. I am a brilliant painter, minus my horrible brush strokes.” While this is harsh there is some truth in my case. I had compensated for my reading deficit for years by breaking things down in the book again when I got home at a much more appropriate pace for me. This method does not transfer to standard tests. The time requirement on my most standardized tests prevented me from decoding the text enough to be able to comprehend it in its entirety. This proved to be my downfall while applying to colleges. While my GPA was around a 3.5, my 20 on the ACT proved to be the focus of the majority of colleges. Being denied from the few colleges I applied to was discouraging, but the biggest blow came when I was rejected from Illinois State University, a school that is ranked in the top ten largest universities producing teachers in the nation. Eventually, I wrote at letter saying I disagreed with their decision and would hope them to reconsider, they did…
I graduated from ISU with a degree in Elementary Education, and became a 5th grade teacher that summer. Flashback to where I was in 5th grade, struggling to read but too embarrassed to let anyone know, scared of being seen as dumb. Now flash-forward, I know a lot of flashing back and forth, I have an opportunity to be an advocate for those students and give them a chance to really thrive. I share my experiences with my students, because naturally I can relate to them. I want them to know that you need to put in the effort now, and you can be anything tomorrow. But this does not come without putting in work. Students need to see school not as a place where they have to be perfect but a place to grow and develop through their mistakes. Schools need to create a culture and community dedicated to improving student’s knowledge and thirst for knowledge, but this environment must also include the opportunity for students to make mistakes.
I would not trade any part of my past if I had the chance. My past and my mistakes have made me the person and teacher that I am today. Every day (except Fridays) for the past two years I have put on my button down shirt, slacks, and a tie, and headed to my 5th grade classroom. Each day I wake up with a passion and love for what I get a chance to do. As a teacher, I have to the power to help students realize their own perception of the world. Just like everything there are hard times, but most days I can’t believe that I get to do this for a living. And if I were ever to lose my passion for teaching, I know I will have to move on, because just as I tell my kids, “I don’t want anything less then your best, because your name is attached to it, and at the end of the day your name is all you have.” But for the foreseeable future, and hopefully forever, I can keep my name and be Mr. Bauer, and not just Andy.