“Hello, Carl. I am calling from Mason County College. I was wondering if you would you be willing to speak to my Adult Basic Education Reading class about how you earned your GED certificate?” I asked the voice on the phone.
“Do you really want me to talk to students?” questioned Carl.
“The teacher who taught your GED class here at MCC gave me your name. I told her that I was looking for someone to inspire my students and you were the person that she recommended.”
“Wow, I don’t know what to say.”
“One of my students would interview you and then she would write an essay about your accomplishments. Would you be able to come next week?”
Carl started yelling, “Mom, please get me a pencil. This teacher from MCC wants me to speak to her students! I need to write down some information.”
On the day of his visit, Carl arrived thirty minutes early. The husky 23-year-old was wearing a black hat, silver chains, and dark clothing. Since it was break time, I met him in the hallway. As I shook his hand I told him that my students were looking forward to hearing his story. I asked his former teacher, Mrs. Evans, to join us and she told him how proud she was of him. As we stood there in the hallway, all the students eventually met him and started asking him questions. His whole demeanor changed as he began interacting with them. By the time everyone returned from break, it was decided that they all wanted to hear his interview. We moved chairs around one large table and one student named Natalia asked the questions from the interview sheet.
Carl and his family lived paycheck to paycheck. His Dad was an alcoholic. Students never bullied Carl but he always felt that teachers picked on him in elementary school and junior high. When he started high school he had a good attitude because he thought that things would change in this new environment. Unfortunately, during his freshman year the teachers made him feel “stupid and worthless”. He received flunking grades so he stopped going to school. Carl started his sophomore year with high hopes but the situation did not improve so he stopped attending. He started junior year and quit after a few months. At the age of 17 he totally dropped out of school. For the next two years he did nothing but play video games and hang out with his friends. One of his biggest regrets is that he wasted his time during that period.
Carl distinctly remembers the day that he made the decision to get an education. He had been arguing with his parents and all of a sudden something just “clicked”. He angrily screamed, “I can’t take it. I need to get out of this house. Mom, you need to take me to MCC so I can sign-up to get my GED.”
Mrs. Evans taught his GED class. Carl feels that she was the first teacher who truly cared about him. Mrs. Evans enabled him to gain confidence in himself and helped him develop an interest in learning.
Currently, Carl is taking general education classes at MCC. He has set very specific goals for himself about what he needs to do so that he can enroll in the Art Institute for Graphic Design. By the time that he is thirty years old he plans to have a career as a Graphic Designer.
My students, who range in age from 18 to 66 years old, were totally engaged as he spoke. At times students were nodding as they related to his struggles. At one point one of the students mentioned that his story was inspiring.
Carl looked genuinely surprised as he said, “I never thought that I would be an inspiration to others.”
Before he left Natalia asked him to share some encouraging words.
“Be positive. Believe that you can pull through it. Focus on doing what you love.”
Adult Basic Education Teacher