Education is a very important thing in my family mainly because when we still lived in Congo, we weren’t given the education that i’m so fortunate to receive today. My mom did not finish high school and my dad got his college degree, but had a difficult time finding a job because till this day, not a lot of jobs are available in Congo. My oldest sister (who is still back home) went to high school and graduated college, but is unemployed. Education is the one and only reason why my parents packed up our bags and decided to bring my siblings and I to America; they left their families, their home, and their friends for us, and that’s why my parents insist on us taking advantage of this opportunity and receive the best education possible. That’s simply a backstory of my family’s education to help you understand why it’s such a priority.
I came to America when I was nine years old. I was very young, very ugly, and spoke little to no english, so you can already imagine the struggles I was about to face. Maxine Kingston and I had the same childhood experience because just like me, she also moved to a new country far far away from everything she ever knew. The language barrier is our main similarity because I would also feel ashamed and embarrassed to speak out in class to express my ideas and thoughts. Sometimes these feelings often come back when i’m put on the spot. I simply don’t feel comfortable speaking out in class, not just for the fear of being incorrect or invalid, but also for the feeling of shame and embarrassment after hearing my voice out loud. Let’s take it back to my first time in an American school. I started in the third quarter of fourth grade as a new student who didn’t speak any english. Luckily, there was a guy in my class who went to my church and spoke the same language as me, however, he didn’t like me at the time because I was to him a burden and an embarrassment. I say at the time because in middle school we became close friends till today, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he would translate the wrong information, laugh, and pick on me with his friends. This torment is just one factor that would make any kid hate school however, not being able to understand anything the teacher was saying was what bothered me the most. Do you pity me? Well don’t because I had one class, ELL, that would make my day. Strange, I know, but it was a way to escape all the other kids. A teacher would come to get me from my class and we’d go to her classroom with a couple of other non- english students with the intent to teach us english. This class did in fact help me learn some english words and also make a friend; singular, as in only one. Even though most of my elementary school days consisted of me getting bullied by every little boys and girls, I still had that one friend that would make me feel wanted and loved, and that’s all that mattered.
Middle school is where everything changed. For one, I could form sentences in english and carry on conversations even though I had a thick accent. Also do you remember how I said the church guy and I became close friends in middle school? Well here’s how. We had art class together, and occasionally the teacher would have candy for the class. He and I decided the candy we were receiving wasn’t enough, so we teamed up for the first time ever in order to get extra candy after class. I never claimed to be an angle, in fact, I was a little devil in disguise. We figured out where she hid the candy bag and were set to begin the mission. Everything was planned out in full details; I was on watch out duty and, he was on snatcher duty. If I ever spotted the teacher, my job was to say her name out loud and greet her at least 15 feet away from the classroom entrance in order to give him enough time to escape. We were little thieves, and not gonna lie, I kinda liked it. After every successful missions, I had adrenaline rushing through my body, and I felt on top because I always had candy (lol). In middle school, it became a goal of mine to try to fit in with the majority or the “cool” kids; getting educated was in the back of my mind and quit frankly, irrelevant. This is where the title “passing without learning” comes in play because I retained nothing from all my year in middle school but still managed to pass the call with a B average. My middle school academic years are kind of a blur because I never payed attention in class ,and the computer was my best friend. I was so excited at the fact that I had “friends” that, the whole reason why we were in America to begin with was forgotten. Cheating became a routine and getting away with it became a lifestyle. Even though the grade book looked fantastic, like the work of a hard working student, I wasn’t retaining any information. People, my supposite friends, began to call me dumb. Maybe for good reasons, because I still wasn’t using the correct grammar when speaking and I didn’t know the answers to the teacher's questions in class. I would hear that almost everyday that I actually began to believe it. I didn’t feel comfortable with the school or my “friends” anymore; right at that moment, my family just got a new apartment in a new county. This was an opportunity to start over, to choose a different path and make better choices. A blessing in disguise. A new beginning.
When you’re a new student in a new school you would expect people to come up to you and try to get to know you right? Wrong, because that’s exactly what didn’t happen to me. I transferred to this school in the second quarter of the 8th grade. In the middle of the year, people already have their friend group or squad established so there is usually no room for more. Being alone is something that no one wants, and at that age, I felt as though I needed friends in order to survive; so began round two of poor decision making, My attempts to make new friends went poorly, just poorly because people are mean and cruel, but that realization didn’t hit yet because I was desperate for friends, and you do anything and everything when you’re desperate. I didn’t want to do school work or any work for that matter, so I began to cheat again. Middle school ended and high school began, which meant starting over again but this time with more people. By this time in my life I was tired, tired of trying so hard. I began to care less about people’s opinions and developed a backbone. However, it wasn’t that easy to give up cheating; it became a habit, a habit that would soon be put to an end. Do you want to know how It ended? Well let me tell you, it’s a juicy story. My english teacher in the ninth grade assigned an essay that we had to complete in a week. I was not even concerned about the assignment because I thought I had plenty of time to complete it, however when I blinked, it was the morning of the due date. I did what any other panicked freshmen would do, and copied and pasted information from online sources without reading it or citing; basically claiming it as mine. In my mind, I thought It was the smart thing to do, I thought I was slick and sneaky, but the teacher saw right through me. Two days after I turned in the assignment, she called me into her classroom where my parents along with the principal were present. Long story short, I was suspended for plagiarizing. My parents were unhappy with me and I was unhappy with myself. This helped me learn an important lesson which is that plagiarizing gets you nowhere, simply completing your own work is best, even if it’s not the best work. Ever since that incident happened, I never plagiarize, and if I look something up online, I make sure to cite it.
I believe that since my parents sacrificed everything to be here in this country, I also have to sacrifice certain things in order to make them proud parents when I graduate with an advanced diploma. I have to sacrifice certain friends, laziness and distractions; basically things that will only satisfy me for the moment. Doing your own work is more rewarding than copying off of someone or something else. When you complete your own work, you don’t have to be stressed about getting caught or feel guilty about what you’ve done. In the first paragraph, I kept saying that I have to take advantage of the education i’m given, let me explain what It means. It means to challenge myself to take a higher course class, even if it’s not what I’m necessarily good at; getting out of where it’s nice and comfortable and jumping into the hot flame called AP lang where you’re assigned homework every night. That’s how you “win” in education, by furthering your intelligence and knowledge, and by simply trying to accomplish what is beyond you, things that no one thinks you can accomplish.