Our parents are our first teachers, encouraging our first tentative steps while grasping our hands to steady us, and as we grow, they directly and indirectly pass on their values, morals and even some idiosyncrasies to us.
As I write this, I sit where I have sat for the last few weeks, at my mother’s bedside in the Intensive Care Unit. Sitting, waiting, praying, clinging to hope with an outward fierce stoicism, a characteristic that I have gleaned from being my mother’s daughter. As I reflect, I sift through memories of my mom and probably too much time imagining my life without her. I push thoughts of her mortality aside with thoughts of my students, coworkers and as I reflect on my profession, I imagine what my life would be like now if she hadn’t given me a love of learning. With the forced air sound of a machine helping my mom breathe as a background to my thoughts, prominent educators throughout my life parade through my head. Still my thoughts keep circling back to what a profound educational leader Ella Sue Koepke, otherwise known as my mom, has been and is to me. Does she know this, have I told her I wouldn’t have gone to college without her inspiration, will I get an opportunity to tell her she’s one of the smartest women I know even though she’s never set foot in a college classroom?
How many of us are among the first in our family to graduate college and know we couldn’t have done it, moreover never would’ve even attempted if it weren’t for the influence of a brilliant mother at home who gave us no other option, but to educate ourselves? More importantly how many among us are stay-at-home moms, housewives, aunts and grandmas believing ourselves to be less accomplished because we’re not formally educated; or that we are less of an inspiration to the next generation looking up to us?
You’re wrong if you believe that formal education is needed to inspire a child. Don’t underestimate what you have to offer the children in your life because you lack a degree. What you have is priceless, what you have can’t be taught in any classroom. What you have is heart and selflessness. So much so that you’d give up everything and give anything for your child to succeed.
My mom did seamstress work, cake decorating, house cleaning and gift wrapping to make ends meet. She sacrificed because she believed her greatest job was to be my mom. She taught me more than she thinks she did. While she was working tirelessly, her message was constant, “Go to college, you’ll never have to work as hard as I do.” I went to college, and while there I exemplified the characteristics my mother instilled in me, knowing the entire time she was right behind me, just as in the above photo.
Now if she’ll just wake up, I have so much to tell her…