On February 28, 2008 I recorded the following experience in my Précis (journal) that I had written as a requirement for my qualitative research professor. As she and I were discussing the introduction to my first chapter of my dissertation I told her about the high school counselor who told me I wasn’t smart enough to go to college. I will paraphrase what she asked me, “Wouldn’t it be fun to find that man and go back and tell him what you have accomplished?”
I think she was saying to me that I would receive a great deal of pleasure if I found him and pointed my finger in his face and with pride tell him he was wrong and then explain what I had accomplished since High School. It was a natural reaction and I suppose that some sort of misplaced gratification may have been felt but not the kind of pleasure for which I was looking.
I responded with a comment something like this, “I think rather than find that man so I could gloat as I told him about my college career I would rather talk to my fifth grade teacher (Mrs. Bouck – who is deceased) who was the first and perhaps only teacher that I ever had who thought I had any ability whatsoever.”
This morning, as I write these feelings I had a thought I have never had before. Perhaps I should find that man and rather than throwing an ‘I proved you wrong’ comment up to his face I should thank him. I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t implied that I wasn’t smart enough to go to college. I wonder if I would have had the same motivation and if I would have succeeded with my dream.
As a result of his actions, I went to my mother who at that particular time in my life was able to motivate and encourage me in a way that lasted a lifetime. Because of the attitude and the example of my mother I did go to college, graduated, had a successful career in public health, taught at the college level, and now have a PhD. Maybe this man really did save my life.
Nevertheless, if I could find anyone to thank I would still want to thank my fifth grade teacher who helped me develop confidence and a quiet belief in myself.
From my studies this morning I have learned that negativity can motivate and it may be powerful but it is not nearly as powerful as positivity. I hope I can teach this lesson to children who struggle for whatever reason or whose challenges like mine can be conquered. I hope parents can see their child’s potential and motivate them like Mrs. Bouck and my mother motivated me.
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