Saturday, October 4, 2014

Take That First Step

Post by Brad Bannerman: Brad is in his first year as an Academic Interventionist at Bettendorf High School. You can follow Brad on twitter @bradbannerman

In the Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, Bilbo Baggins recites the following poem:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

I love this poem, the journey to success is a road, and like a road you can get on it at any point in time. But in order to get to success you must take a step on that road. The first step is the most difficult, but once the walking has begun you can negotiate the bumps with ease.

Being housed in the depths of the school, I don’t get out as much as I’d like, so if I haven’t said hello, or you haven’t heard from or met me about one of our mutual students, then let me introduce myself; I’m Brad Bannerman, Academic Interventionist (thunderous applause).

I've taken a long road to the position I now hold. I graduated high school (yep, the rumors are true--I was a Spartan) in 1999. Due to extended indecision I didn't get my Associates degree from Scott Community College until 2006 (so yes, o’ students it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after high school). I received my Bachelors in History in 2008 from the University of Iowa. I fruitlessly searched for a job (any job) for almost two years. During this time, I gained my substitute authorization, and began subbing in the Pleasant Valley school district. While in a long-term position, and after the birth of my first daughter, I realized that I have a passion for education and teaching, and that I want to make a difference. This led me back to school for a Masters of Teaching and Learning from the University of Iowa in December of 2012. I was hired to my current position in August 2014.

In brief, that’s how I got to my current place in life. But I don’t just want to let you know my biography. I want to talk about the feelings of negativity, frustration, and hopelessness I experienced; more importantly, I want to discuss perseverance.

In my extended time between high school and college graduations, I experienced a long period of feeling lost or uncertain about what I wanted to do with my life. As I worked in a job from which I derived no joy, I finally came to realize that I needed to return to school to find a job I would enjoy.

With a sense of hope I attended and graduated from both Scott Community College and the University of Iowa. After graduation, I was certain that I would find a job I loved and could work at forever.

With a growing feeling of frustration, I found  no jobs available for which I was qualified. This was not a unique situation, as the year 2008 was an absolutely abysmal year for the entire world. The stock market crashed, hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. As a stopgap measure I received my substitute authorization and began subbing.

Now, to that point in my life I had always considered becoming a teacher, but had ruled it out because I wasn't certain I could handle working with so many students at once. Then I had my first daughter, I long term subbed and realized that I loved teaching and working with students. These two events completely shifted my paradigm and completely rerouted my life.

I subbed as I attended grad school at Iowa, graduating in December of 2012, once again full of hope and high expectations. The job market still was recovering however, and there were few teaching positions to be had. I can’t truly describe the frustrations and pains I went through while searching for a place to launch my career. Looking back, it’s easy to see that everything worked out the way it did for a reason: to lead me to the position I have here at Bettendorf today. I love what I do. I love working with the students I do. I find I’m once again full of hope and optimism.

My message here is for all of the students out there who feel frustration, hopelessness, even rage. I want you to know that we've all been through those feelings. Your teachers aren't immune to those feelings, even now. We are human, we all make mistakes, we all deal with problems, everyone feels their problems are insurmountable. But I want you to know that you can succeed. If you persevere, success is attainable. Will it be easy? Maybe, but probably not. Here’s the trick: don’t feel stupid for failing--no one begins anything as an expert. All of your teachers have failed--often miserably at one time or another. Failing is nothing more than a curve on the road to success. So I implore you, wherever you think your road will lead, take that first step, the ones after will come more easily, I promise.

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