A Case for High Standards: A Tennessee Student Story

As my last semester of my undergrad career starts in a few short days I can’t help but think back four years ago to the last semester of my senior year of high school. What a thrilling and exciting time this was! The time that I had dreamed about since I was a little girl was finally here – what university would I decide on? What career would be just the right fit for me?

Since I graduated from a small rural high school in East Tennessee, I knew one thing for sure – a big university was absolutely out of the question. I applied and was accepted to Lincoln Memorial University. The moment I stepped foot on campus it felt like home. I knew right then and there that I had made the right decision when it came to what postsecondary school to attend.

I was in my freshman composition class when it hit me that I was not at all prepared for college. I can remember very vividly sitting in Avery Hall on the second floor in one of the classrooms and my professor Dr. Brackmann talking about an upcoming assignment. It was one that was supposed to be simple to complete, one that she said we had all the prerequisites to complete this assignment in our high school English class. I remember thinking, this lady was crazy. For once in my life, I had no idea what someone was talking about. It all sounded like a foreign language to me.

Not having the nerve to speak up in front of my peers, afraid of sounding unprepared, I would wait until after class to let my professor know that I was completely lost and needed some kind of guidance. Dr. Brackmann graciously met with me once or twice a week during her office hours to have a one-to-one conversation about that week’s class. These conversations were basically tutoring, catching me up on everything that I should have been prepared for in high school. To overcome this I would first have to ask for help, and I was blessed with a professor that was willing to go the extra mile to see me succeed in her class. I would have to also reason with myself that it was okay to ask for help. In fact, it’s okay to struggle and not understand something the first time the material was presented.

In high school, I never had to work for my grades because most everything came naturally to me. I never had more than a couple nights of homework a month in all four years of high school. Most teachers in my high school seemed to be there to be a friend, which is fine as long as they are your instructor first and foremost. I was never pushed to try harder or given differentiated instruction to ensure that I would be ready to tackle the first semester of my college career. I can remember sitting in classes that were an hour and a half long and if all the work was done in 45 minutes I was allowed to go to the agriculture department for the rest of the time. It would have been much more helpful and beneficial if my teachers made me sit in class and given a harder assignment that made me struggle a little bit. Goodness knows I have in college.

Now, I am less than 150 days away from being the first in my family to graduate college. I have chosen a career as a special education teacher. As I reflect on my experience, I believe it’s important that a student has high expectations for themselves, but even more important that teachers have high expectations for their students. Students need to know that their teachers are there to be a mentor and to push them to achieve more than what they thought they were capable of achieving.

As a future educator, I plan to expect more and really push my own students. Two sayings have really helped me in my college years and I plan on using them with my future students. They are: “Shoot for the moon and, even if you miss, you land among the stars” and “Anything is possible if you apply yourself and want it badly enough.”