Memorable Educational Moment

The very first session I attended at EduCon this year was led by Shea Martin and Lizzie Forten, two folks I’ve followed on twitter for their brilliance so the chance to learn from them in person was too good to pass up. It was titled Dreaming and Working Toward Love-Filled Liberation in Schools.

I have many thoughts from this session that I will be reflecting on for some time, but the very first question hit me really hard and I need to write and process it so I can move on.

Shea shared their story and it was astounding. Not just the story, but their presentation of it, and their reflection on it. When we were asked to think about a memorable moment, positive or negative, and it’s impact on our academic trajectory I was a bit lost at first. I thought my academic career had pretty well followed a norm, at least for a straight, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, middle-class girl. I didn’t think I had any significant moments.

Near the end of my fifth grade year my family moved from a suburb of Dallas to a suburb of D.C. I knew, very quickly, that I was academically behind my peers, something that was new to me. It was a disconcerting feeling. But not life-changing or devastating. Then my parents looked into gifted education for me and my younger sister. She qualified for the highest level of gifted services and I did not. The following year she went to a different school to be in a self-contained gifted classroom. I remained in our neighborhood school and got pulled out of class an hour a week for enrichment.

I went on to attend our neighborhood high school while my sister went to the magnet high school in our district, one of the elitist high schools in the nation. I went to a small, liberal arts college in Virginia and my sister went to Syracuse.

I’ve always believed my sister is smarter than I. I’ve always believed my immediate family (sister and parents) is smarter than I. I’d just never thought consciously about it. I’ve always believed I’m smart, but that many, many people are smarter.

This isn’t huge, in some ways. There are far more impactful stories people have from their lives. But I hadn’t realized how much this had impacted how I define myself. How many other events from my childhood have defined how I see myself and I’ve never noticed? How many things have I not done because of that view of myself? It has given me a lot to think about and I am deeply grateful for that.

2 replies on “Memorable Educational Moment”

  1. Charlene O'Brien says:

    I have so many thoughts about this piece and your experience. I’m always so glad for our students who we are able to identify easily and steer them toward what they need. As I read your wondering, I couldn’t help but think how important it is to provide the best possible instruction to all our students. We have so many “smart” students who aren’t as easily identified, and deserve the same great instruction and be told they are amazing students.

    • jenorr says:

      Charlene, today is our next cultural competency training and it has me thinking in even another way about how we define smart, both in schools and in our society.

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