Education Reform part 1: “You learn to USE it”

When I was a senior in high school I wanted to be a meteorologist.I always enjoyed science, and meteorology was simply my subject of choice. I did do some independent study on the subject, but it was mostly based on the crazy weather patterns Oklahoma was known for. My opinion of meteorology shifted after I spoke to a meteorologist in person. One of Oklahoma’s chief meteorologists was signing autographs at the mall and my Dad took me to see him. I asked him what I needed to prepare for to become a meteorologist and he told me what I should expect, “a lot of math”. I wasn’t surprised or as let down as one might think when he said that; however my expression must have shown him that I wasn’t thrilled by his advice. He then told me, “I guess you’re not a big fan of math”. My Dad joined the conversation saying, “but you learn to love it”.

My struggling with Math originated in elementary school and was probably exacerbated during home schooling. I always had to dedicate extra time to doing math that got in the way of other subjects. That being said, high school can create a false sense of confidence in one’s academic abilities prior to college. I struggled in Math freshman year and finished with a “C”, pushed myself sophomore year and finished with barely a “B” (thanks to an exempted final), an “A” junior year in Geometry (my 4.0 semester), and A “B” senior year. In retrospect, these grades were mostly due to extra credit and other exploits that allowed me to simulate academic excellence. My college experience wasn’t nearly as friendly.

In college, it wasn’t just Math that I had issues with but it made up most of my time and energy. Now I found myself, as a pre-nursing/psychology major, taking classes like General “easy” Chemistry, Human Physiology and Microbiology and struggling in all of them. Nursing wasn’t my second, or even third, choice in a major, but it was a practical career choice. However, my experience in the Math and Science classes ensured that I would not be a competitive applicant upon entry into nursing school. I just decided to finish my Psychology bachelors degree and figure something out from there. My undergraduate GPA was pretty mediocre. To put it in perspective, my physiology professor would give an inspirational story about her struggles with a learning disability and graduating with a “low” 2.99 GPA. Unlike most students in her class, I was unmoved by her story. My GPA was lower than hers and if I had a learning disability it still hasn’t been diagnosed.

As I said before, nursing was not my second choice. It was actually Law. However, my university did not have a true “pre-law” program. Even then, I was really interested in the benefits of a law degree as opposed actually practicing law. As such, I enrolled in a paralegal program at my university’s law school. I was able to supplement my GPA with the GPA I earned there and enrolled into a Master’s of Science in counseling program (though I still hope to get into a law school).  In the midst of my academic career I remembered the meteorologist’s response to my father statement, “well… you learn to USE it”. Throughout my academic career I was never really taught how to use what I learned. Even at the University level, I always prioritized getting the grade rather than learning the material. Even though I was able to do well in the paralegal program, I still brought this frame work with me. I couldn’t tell you anything about intellectual property law despite getting an A in the class.

This is what birthed my interest in education reform.

End of Part 1

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