Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My grandmother's mother died giving birth to her, and her father blamed my Grandmother for the death of his wife. They were poor and he decided he couldn't farm and raise the babies by himself, so he sent my Grandmother and her elder siblings to an orphanage far away. When she was able to help around the farm, Grandma and siblings were allowed to return to their Dad's farm. When she was 17, her Father died in an accident.

My grandmother tells tales of how she took in others' ironing to put herself through high school in the depression. She married my Grandfather right out of high school. Grandma had my mother and uncle and went to work shortly thereafter as a nurses' aid.

When her kids were teenagers, Grandma finally went back to the local Junior College and got her nursing license (LPN). She worked as a nurse until her retirement.

My Grandpa (her husband) came from a large family (11 kids- 9 survived) of poor farmers. Many of my relatives, especially those from Grandpa's side are still poor. Poverty is inheritable and a cycle very hard to break out of.

I looked around at my relatives during the funeral, and realized that Grandpa's and Grandma's descendants were the only ones able to become successful in life. My uncle got a bachelors degree and is now an executive. Though my Mother flunked out of college, she eventually got an RN. My Dad got his degree thanks to the GI bill, since uncle Sam "encouraged" him to fight in Vietnam. Even though Mom didn't get her degree, the legacy of my Grandmother was that hard work and education were the key to success. I was then granted that opportunity and given that worldview.

I try so hard to understand my students, especially the ones that need my understanding, by relating their lives to my experiences. I was lucky that my Grandmother was so stubborn, and somehow from somewhere got the idea that education was important. I just got lucky that I am the child of the union of my Granddad, who was probably headed to poverty, and my Grandmother, who was determined to escape it. Many of my students don't have the luck that I did. While it's true that I had to earn my degrees all by myself, I was born into an environment that was determined to get me to college. So many of my students come from environments that don't value a college education. Moreover some of my students have families who think a degree is a good idea, but don't have a clue how to get their student there including raising them with the reading skills, curiosity, discipline, or attention to detail it takes to succeed.

Thank you, Grandma for your legacy. You are why I am here today.


  1. An incredible tribute to your grandmother--thank you for sharing it.

  2. This is exactly how I feel about my grandparents, who bootstrapped themselves from poor farmers to college educated people, and in turn all of us in the younger generations were raised with the understanding of the value of education. They paved the way for all of us. One can only hope that the students who were not lucky enough to be born into families determined to make themselves better, will pave the way for themselves and their own future generations.

    Thank you for sharing; your grandmothers legacy is sure to live on!

  3. Yes, that would be a great legacy to keep up with. I am in awe with all tjhe stuff my grandmother put up with as a young girl/woman... and it does make it a bit easier sometimes when I feel like whining.

    I'm just a bit annoyed sometimes that people who aren't trying are not having any sight of others who have had it bad and decided to workworkwork thier way up.

    I know not everyone can do it, but you could at least give it a good hard try before you cave in to "meh, I'll just be here trying to get someone else to pay for me".

    ( I didn't mean to go into the whiny/complaining about others. I just love and miss my own grandmother and it was very eye opening for me to listen to her everyday life when she was 12 since it was miles and worlds away from mine. And I am also the only one* with a degree and a job in a fairly large extended family.

    *only female, there are some males with degrees, although not phds)