Luis Duque final final

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Learning has been always a need for me.  I only compare this need with the same need I have for eating and resting.  The journey of my life began one day in April 2, in a very remote place in the mountains of Colombia.   That day was a very special day in many people’s life.  I was the first son for my parents.  I was the first grandson for my mom’s parents.  I was the first nephew.  I was the first little boy in many years, and I was such a beautiful creature, they said.  In this paper I intent to reflect on the journey of my life as a student in elementary, middle and high school, and how this journey has been essential to help me shape my strengths while developing my personal and professional profile.

Before starting my preparation as a literacy coach I used to think that acquiring reading and writing skills occurred during our first school years, that is kindergarten and/or first grade. I did not know that these processes begin even before you start talking or even before walking. My mom was my first literacy teachers. But before she started teaching me how to read and write, I was highly enriched by oral processes that used to happen in my family on a daily basis. Being raised, and growing in an extended family has been a fantastic adventure where language and knowledge had played an important role. (An extended family is one where your parents, and all their relatives live and share the same daily situations.  They also work collaboratively to fulfill their needs)  Now I know that being literate is not only knowing how to read and write.

When I was just a kid I learned to read and write so easily. I remember those days in my early childhood life when I used to listen to adults’ conversations. I have been always a little curious and smart. I had feel always fortunate because I had great teachers that taught me the foundations for reading and writing, and I had used this learning to make my family feel proud of me.

My kindergarten teacher, a lady that I will never forget, taught me pre-reading and pre-writing skills. She taught me how to grab a pencil correctly, something that my mad had already started years before.  she also taught me how to turn the pages in a notebook, how to draw lines, circles and all kinds of shapes; she also did great by teaching me how to socialize with other kids. However, that was a never a problem for me. I was never a shy kid, and I did, and still love to have friends. I remember when my kindergarten teacher had a little dog, and during our recess time she used to prompt his pet to show us different tricks he could do. Kindergarten was really an amazing experience for me!

When I entered first grade, I think I had very solid foundations in reading and writing. My first grade teacher focused on the alphabet, the sounds of the letters and its combinations, spelling and a little of grammar. I remember that by the end of first grade I was able to read a whole text. The first story I could read by myself was “El Renacuajo Paseador”, from Rafael Pombo, a very well know children literature’s writer from Colombia.  “El Renacuajo Paseador”, translated as “The walker tadpole” is a short story. The character is a tadpole that did not listen to his mom and preferred to listen to his friends. What happened at the end was shocking for me at that time, but I did learn a valuable lesson: always listen to your parents.  And I always did!  My first grade teacher was a very sweet woman.  She encouraged my mom to allow me to go to her house to do after school, and my mom accepted.  She was very thankful for my teacher’s gesture.  I loved to go to my teacher’s house because she had two daughters.  they both were beautiful, and I was in love of one of them.  Even with all the good things that happened to me in first grade, my teacher used to go to the principal’s office to drink coffee, or just to have extended conversations.  I used to be a lot of times without supervision, but that was good too, and helped me in other fields that kids need to discover.

Second grade was a good year for me. I was still very successful in reading thanks to the support I had with my first grade teacher. However, writing was still a little difficult, specially when I had to write my own stories. In second grade I started developing and deepen on the socialization skills needed in order to function well in school. My second grade was also a great teacher. She was so compassionate with her kids, very caring and lovely too.  But I never sow her out of her desk.

In third grade I faced my first challenges. I was so happy with the teacher I had. She was even more caring, and lovely than any other teacher before. Besides, she was the pretties teacher ever. (In my country, the school year started by the month of September, and ended in June) However, my happiness and my good academic performance was interrupted when my mom decided to move to another town. My mom had some issues with my dad. That was the reason we moved out.  I entered a new school to continue in third grade around the month of December.  That change was really frustrating for me. I felt like I was starting over the school year. I did not know anybody in the classroom.  The kids were so mean to me, and my teacher was simply annoying. She was the ugliest person I had met in my life, and she was so rude.  She was probably mad at the school system because she had an extra kid in her classroom.  I think I was paying the consequences with the treatment I received from her since the last moment I entered her classroom. Being in this place was like falling from heaven to hell.  All this experience taught me something.  That was the time when I became a rebel.  I started exhibiting the worst behavior any kid can show.  I did not wanted to pay attention in class.  I was rude and mean too with my peers and with that teacher.  But, guess what?  She was not caring and lovely like the teachers I had had before.  I did not do any homework.  The worst part of this panorama was that I was unsupervised most of the times.  That was definitely a horrible year in my life.  This resulted in a failing school year, and I had to repeat third grade in the same school, but fortunately with a different teacher.  The new teacher was completely different.  She was not caring.  She was not lovely.  But she was an excellent teacher.  No matter what weaknesses or limitations you had, you always did learn.  She was more like an old fashion teacher.  One of those that walk in all classroom areas with a yard ruler in her hands, and if you committed any mistake or exhibited any unaccepted behavior, the ruler made the job for her.  I was not a rebel any more, and with this teacher I saved myself of being a trouble in the classroom.

Then, in fourth grade I was placed in the same class with the same teacher.  Yes!…, the teacher with the yard ruler. Everything was running smooth and peaceful until my mom and dad broke up again.  My mother returned to her parents’ home and went to live in the town where we used to live before.  By mid of my fourth grade I was place in a new school, with new teachers, with new kids, with a new life… new everything… and I just had to let that happen.  What could I do?  I did not have voice at that age.  I did not have other choice either.  I felt very disappointed because I was being treat like a ping-pong ball.  I started developing the thinking of that I never had a home. The new school was developing a new instructional model where every single subject was being covered by a different teacher.  I started missing my last year teacher and her yard ruler.  I never comprehended why every 50 minutes a different teacher was coming to my class.  It took me time to understand the new model, and when I finally got it, it was too late.  That was another school year I failed.  And my mother and my father went back again.  Another fourth grade in a different town, different school, different teacher, different instructional model, and different everything.  Perhaps many people would think that it was great moving from place to place.  But it wasn’t.  It was horrible.  I started this fourth grade again, and it was a very successful year for me.  I passed to fifth grade with a good academic performance.

In fifth grade I discovered my passion for reading.  My favorite subject was social studies.  In this class I was learning about my country and the Americas, as well as the history of Pre-Columbian civilizations.  That was really fascinating to me.  My interest in these topics made me discover a passion for reading.  In addition, my Spanish teacher was excellent.  So, I was acquiring knowledge while I was polishing my language skills and strengths.  I had a successful fifth grade, and I had the pass to enter middle school.

My middle school compromised sixth and seventh grades.  When I had finished my fifth grade, I had the expectation to enter a middle school where commerce and finance where the areas of academic exploration. At least this was the school my parents wanted for me, but I was not really sure.  Unfortunately, my parents were not really informed about the processes to enter the school, and I never had the chance to place the test to enter that school.  That made my mom started looking for a middle school right away.  It was too late to fill in applications.  It was too late even to talk to the principals to place a kid in a public school. My mom did not have other choice than enrolling me in a private school in sixth grade.  It was great, but it was not  what I wanted.  Besides the costs of being there, I had always the problem that if my mother could pay the tuition, we did not have money for transportation of lunch.  At the end of that sixth grade the school closed its operations, and I did not have the pass to seventh grade because that school was not certified by the Department of Education as an educational institution.   Moths later, I was accepted in public school to repeat sixth grade due to the circumstances with the private school the year before.  Finally, there was justice for me.  A new start in sixth grade was really good.  In this second time sixth grade I had the opportunity to excel academically.  I was on the best students.  I received so many rewards and I received public recognition for my academic performance. However, at the end of this academic year, I was big enough to take my own decisions, and I went to apply to another public school that had discovered was the perfect one for my interests.

In seventh grade, I finally was in the school I always dreamed.  It was a school where I could explore different academic strands before going to high school.  I explored the humanities, the sciences, the work of the land, and social and community development.  By the end of seventh grade I had chosen to be in the academy of social and community development.  Seventh grade was not an easy year for me.  I studied in the afternoons, and I did not like it, but I finally passed to high school, within the same school.

High school started in eight grade, and since the moment I started in eight grade I was already clear about many things for my life.  The most important was that by that age I was a very independent boy.  I was not being influenced any more by the emotional disrupts of my parents.  I became a boy with responsiblity.  I was in my school almost all day, because I was involved in all kinds of activities.  I became in more that a student, I became in a leader.  I was for my teachers a model for other students.  I was not living with my parents anymore.  I had decided to say with my mom’s mother, my grandmother.  My parents finally decided to live their own lives, and I was so happy for them.  I cultivated a beautiful relation with my mother.  She never married any other man after my father because she always loved him until she passed away.  She dedicated the rest of her life to work in order to support me financially.  My dad created another family, and he gave another direction to his life.  Today, I am thinking about him, because I am bringing him to live in the U.S. with me, since I never could bring my mother.  It was my dream to have them both living in my house, and teach them how to have the family I never had.  But you never can have everything that you wish in life, because life is too short.  It is that short, and flies that fast that I don’t remember much from my high school life.



Reflection:  All teachers have been extremely essential in my life. Since I have memory, my life in school was a wonderful experience. Sometimes it went wrong, but that must happen because that is what helps you grow. Teachers have an important role in every kid’s life. Thanks to my teachers I learned that being in this field is more than delivering instruction. I feel fortunate because my teachers were there for me. They used to give me extra time for teaching me about everything. I became a teacher because I had great teachers. They inspired me to be who I am today. Even those that were not great.