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An Education Story

Updated on February 18, 2012

The Beginning

This story begins with a dusty, sweat soaked man working in a cemetery in rural Ohio. The sun scorched his skin on this sweltering dog-day afternoon in August of 2007. He labored all day attempting to level the land between the stones in an older section of the cemetery, and he suddenly felt a sharp twinge of pain in his lower back. He dismissed the pain, as he usually had done in the past. He had spent his youth on the gridiron battling as a gladiator in the trenches as an offensive lineman, and pain was something he had grown accustomed to. Putting this discomfort off as a pulled muscle or simply using muscles he had not used for quite some time, he continued working and finished out the day's labor.

That night, after turning in early due to the amount of work he had done, he awoke at two in the morning and tried to roll out of bed. This attempt was futile, as the second he moved he was completely locked up from the stabbing pain that ran from his lower back down his right leg. The struggle to rise lasted nearly an hour, and finally he got up and went directly to the medicine cabinet for some pain reliever. Walking was a challenge, and it took every ounce of energy he had to get to his recliner. He realized this was more than a pulled muscle, but he knew he must go back to the cemetery in the morning for a Saturday burial. He was kept awake all night in agony, and made it to the cemetery a few minutes early in the morning after toiling to get dressed and in his vehicle. He told his coworker of his lack of sleep due to the immense pain, and his coworker empathized with his condition. The coworker did the grunt work during the burial and allowed him to relax.

The following Tuesday, he went to the hospital and was checked by a doctor. After months of Bureau of Worker's Compensation (BWC) paperwork, sub-dural injections, and doctor visits, he underwent surgery on his lower back to repair a disc. He then began the recuperation process, going through numerous weeks of physical therapy and work conditioning. After returning to work on light duty, he returned to work on light duty. After a few weeks of this, he was medically retired by his employer because his doctor claimed that he would never be able to perform the duties of his job without rescrictions.

The Return

The "he" I referred to earlier was me. The circumstances of my back injury were life-altering, but they afforded me the opportunity to continue the education I had begun many years earlier. I hired an attorney and was appointed a case manager, both of whom led me to apply to and be accepted by The Ohio State University. I went to a branch campus and spoke with a counselor about my options. I had studied education during my previous attempt at higher education, and I was unsure if I could graduate within the time constraints put on me by the BWC. The counselor explained to me that it was feasible, but I would need to have a very high grade point average (GPA) in order to be accepted to the Master's program in education.I knew the risks, and I understood that I would have little or no room for sub-par grades, but I knew that my desire to be a teacher would drive me to succeed.

Things started out well, and I began to develop confidence in my abilities as a student. I made dean's list every quarter I attended the university, and I ended up graduating summa cum laude. I applied to the Master's program and was accepted. The program was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. While studying with my cohort, there were instances that I was unsure of my preparedness for tests, papers, or presentations. I plodded along and spent many sleepless nights preparing, studying, researching, and typing. All this while being a single parent to a pre-teen daughter. It was a trying experience, but I graduated with my Master of Education degree.

The Now

So my education is complete. I am now a substitute teacher for multiple districts in Central Ohio. I have applied to a number of school districts in the area and continue to find new places to send my resume to. The market for teachers is low right now, but I am confident that I will find a school to begin my career with. While I attended Ohio State, there were many instances when I was underprepared or felt that my work was not adequate to achieve the grade I needed. Each time this occured, I achieved higher than I believed I had performed. This also pertains to taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and the Praxis teacher exams. I actually walked out of the room after taking the Praxis exams and believed I had failed.

I did not fail. I passed with relatively high scores. Maybe I knew the material well enough to perform as well as my scores demonstrate, or maybe I am extremely lucky. I do not believe either of these. I feel that teaching is my calling. I believe that a devine hand guided me down the path I have been on for the past four years. I previously did not believe in fate or destiny, as I believed that life is what each and every one of us make it. I now believe that we are put on this earth to make a difference in some way, somewhere, somehow.


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