I Shouldn't Be Here

     I am enjoying my 25th year working in education this year.  I've been a middle and high school mathematics teacher, a high school mathematics chairperson and district teacher specialist, I've worked in the research and accountability office, and am now a supervisor of secondary mathematics--overseeing the mathematics program for 20,000+ students in my school district.  Still, had things worked out the way they were "supposed" to, I should have never done any of this.



     You see, I grew up in a lower-middle income family--which is an overtly nice and formal way to put it.  I have a brother and two sisters; all born within a six-and-a-half year timespan.  I was among the first generation to benefit from the Free and Reduced Meals program.  I was in 10th grade in 1980, and the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) did a national survey of students in my class back then.  They followed up with us ten years later and this is what they found:  Only about 5% of the students in my economic family situation graduated from college.  (Good news: NCES did the same study with the 10th graders from 2002 and found that 14.5% of the low-income students from that class ended up with a college degree by 2012.  That's better than 5%, but still much too low.)



     So, had I followed the path that most of my peers did, I should have never went to college; I certainly should have never graduated from college.  Which means, no teaching job, no promotions, and certainly no Master's degree later on.  Hence, I shouldn't be here.



     The reasons I AM here are many.  One of the biggest is simply public education.  My K-12 teachers never told me I couldn't go to college; they never told me I couldn't do whatever I wanted to do.  The ability of my parents to pay a greatly reduced price for lunch for four children was an incredible benefit to my family.  Who knows how much less my parents would have been forced to provide for us had this not been an option?  We always say that education is the gateway to successful, productive citizens.  There is no doubt in my mind that public, free education made a difference in my life.

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