Monday, December 15, 2008

A Bit More About Me…

I wanted to be an Artist for as long as I can remember. I started out pursuing this goal - but was quickly detoured by life. I am slowly finding my way back – but this posting is a little bit about the detour.

I grew up hearing my mother say that she was never able to “get” math. I heard her say it so often that I believed the same to be true about me. I avoided it all through high school – except what was required. I was so relieved to find out that most Art degrees did not require math when I applied to a community college.

I encountered that detour I mentioned earlier after I completed my first semester (it would be about 24 years before I got back on track for Art). Over the next ten years I got married and had two children. Then, at the end of this ten year period of my life I decided to go back to college – but my first husband, D, discouraged me from taking any art courses. He encouraged me to take a few courses in computers. This was at a time in my life when I had no voice so I was not able to stand up to him. I enrolled in a non-credit math course – because I had to.

I remember the first few weeks of class we learned about negative numbers. I came home crying – I would never get this. I would never be able to understand it and I was going to fail the course. D sat down with me and patiently explained how positive and negative numbers worked. He drew out a number line and explained how to use it by moving left or right to calculate an answer when adding or subtracting. After a few hours I got it! I was so excited!

I did very well over the next few weeks. I’d gained some confidence in my ability to learn and understand math. Until we hit the Cartesian Coordinate System! OMG! Again, I came home very upset. Again, D sat down and patiently explained how to graph points using x and y coordinates. And again, I got it! Not only did I understand – but I started liking it! It was when we started learning basic algebra that I started falling in love with math. Once I knew I was capable of learning it, I matriculated into the Computer Science degree and there was no stopping me.

I never thought of myself as a logical or analytical person. I still don’t. But there was something about solving calculus programs that had an immense appeal to me. Then, when I learned my first programming language I became smitten with the logic and problem solving aspects of writing computer programs. Over the next few years I attended college part-time, obtained an A.S. in Computer Science, and then transferred to a four year school.

I had grown so much during this time. Most importantly I gained confidence in myself and discovered a love for learning. When I was one year away from obtaining my B.A. in Computer Science I left D. There were many many reasons for this – which will take many many postings to tell – but for now let’s just say I found my voice and became strong enough to leave. From the very first morning that I woke up alone I began another journey – a journey of self discovery.

I had to take on some part-time work. One of the jobs I had was to tutor other students in Math. I discovered I was really good at explaining things. I used all the struggles I had with learning math to help others understand. I used the techniques D had used when helping me. If that didn’t work then I thought of different approaches to try. What I discovered during this time was that I was a natural teacher.

I was one semester away from graduation and I transferred to another school to obtain a B.A. in Math with a minor in Education. I wanted to be a high school Math teacher! When I told D of my plans his first reaction was one of anger! He couldn’t believe I was going to do something that stupid! We were legally separated at that time and he was paying alimony and child support. How did I expect to pay for this?

Well, I went ahead and transferred colleges anyway. I would end up transferring one more time – but I did finish with a B.A. in Math and certified to teach it! After a very short time of substitute teaching, I got my first teaching job – as a high school Computer Science teacher! There was an ad in the paper for one and I thought I’d apply. They offered me the position! I took it and then started on my Masters in Math Education. I still had hopes of teaching high school math – but this got my foot in the door. Over the next five years I finished up my course work part-time while working full-time. I got married and had two more children during this time.

While I was completing my last semester of work for my M.A., I applied for a tenure-track faculty position at a local community college – and was offered the job. I felt as if I was made for this type of teaching! I understood the struggles of the non-traditional student – ones like me who were late bloomers. Who were trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Single moms.

After my first year at the community college I discovered that I could take one course a semester for free! Guess what my first class was! Introduction to Drawing! My life has come full circle! It was the detour that I had to take that actually brought me back to my first love – Art! Ten years later and I not only learned to paint but I learned to throw clay. There is something soothing in the repetitious and cyclic movements of throwing clay on a wheel. I love working with both mediums.

To sum up my life thus far – I spent my 20’s as a stay-at-home mom for my two children – DJ and E. DJ is my oldest son – who passed away this past summer. I spend my 30’s starting all over – with school and a new relationship. I spent my 40’s on my career, new marriage, 2 more children. Now I begin my 50’s.

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