This I Believe, by Kyle Wilson

This summer, TCU College of Education professors Steve Pryzmus and Michael Faggella-Luby had students write This I Believe Essays at the beginning and end of their course studying Exceptional Children and Youth at Risk.   The next postings will feature the students’ final essays. 

After several weeks of studying exceptional students and youth at-risk, I realize that my beliefs and attitudes about these students have changed. In particular, I have come to realize through class and also through my observations at Eastern Hills High School that I had access to many resources and opportunities that many American students do not. I attended a predominantly white middle – class high school in a suburban area. As a result, until a few weeks ago I had seldom if ever heard the term “Emergent Bi-lingual,” for instance. Thus, I have not had to wrestle with many of the  same issues facing inner city students today, such as speaking different languages at school and at home. It is rather unfortunate that people such as myself often do not think much about students and families whose social or educational situation differs drastically from their own. Moreover, I do not think that I have been forced to experience marginalization to the same degree that some students have, such as students with Autism Spectrum disorders. Therefore, I am unfortunately not an expert on these complex issues, although my knowledge of these issues has widened. However, I still believe that students should not need to be defined by their backgrounds, however traumatic or unpleasant they may have been. Rather, their early life, both inside and outside of the classroom, is a time for personal reflection and self – discovery. Teachers should help students realize their desires in life, such as their occupation, and empower them. Nevertheless, I realize that lack of motivation is a serious issue in most American high schools. Special dedication is needed on the part of teachers to overcome this problem. At the same time, I think that it is very important for teachers to encourage students to discover what they truly believe. However, given that opinions can differ, especially on controversial topics, there do need to be certain boundaries. I hope that a sense of respect and civility can be maintained. As a result, I realize that teachers need to treat this issue with due sensitivity. Nevertheless, many students surely feel that they do not have a voice. On the contrary, I believe all students’ voices are worthy of hearing if they contribute to the class in a meaningful way. As a consequence, I have come to believe more clearly that every teacher – provided that he/she has the requisite training, knowledge, and experience – can positively impact students from exceptional backgrounds. Lastly, I should add that I am awaiting my student teaching experience this fall. To be truthful, I am mildly nervous, given my lack of experience in the classroom. Yet I hope it will better allow me to determine my long-term career and vocational goals.

I Believe in Racial Equality for all People

Author: La’Darion Freeman, TCU Student, Fall 2014

These days it seems that the subject of race is present in practically every major situation. It does not simply pertain to the “White vs. Black” situation that sometimes occurs in America, but it is also outstretched to many parts of the world, causing great conflicts. I believe that racial equality for all people would diminish the unnecessary conflicts and cause us to look at each other as true peers.

Growing up in south Mississippi, I was exposed to quite a few situations in which race was a determining factor. For example, I had plenty of white friends and we usually liked to go eat after football practice, the most popular places to eat in the area that we lived were at the casinos. On one particular day we decided to go to a casino to eat because it was half priced; the group consisted of about five Caucasian guys and three African Americans. Upon entering the casino, my white friends were instantly let in without even being checked for proper age, however, the other black guys and myself were stopped abruptly and it almost seemed like we were going to be detained for even coming in to the casino. We were checked for identification, they attempted to frisk us but we adamantly refused, and finally they said they would not allow us in because we presented a high “theft risk”. Our white friends watched this whole situation unfurl and at its conclusion they demanded to speak to the manager, which security declined, so we all simply just left. Until that point I had never been in a situation where my right to eat was denied simply because of my race.

The casino situation was troubling to me because I come from a mixed family: my dad’s grandfather was biracial, I have white uncles, and I even have a white grandmother. The values that my parents etched into my brain were that race has nothing to do with judging someone, they should be judged by their character and their actions.

I believe in Tolerance and Understanding

Author: Corey Landers, TCU Student, Marketing Major, Published Fall 2012

My life was changed the day I first moved. I had been living in Louisiana for practically my entire life when my father told the family that he was being transferred overseas to Great Britain. We moved to a small village called Lea that was just two hours away from London, and I went to school surrounded by people who had funny accents and strange habits. We also went to a different church, an Anglican one I suppose, but honestly I could barely tell the difference then from the Methodist church we had attended in Louisiana.

Church was never a big part of my family’s life. We arbitrarily went from Methodism to Anglicanism simply because it was convenient (the Anglican Church was right down the street). And when we then moved to London itself, we stopped attending church for a year because we could barely find a school for my sister and I, let alone a place of worship. But none of this was a big deal because religion and spirituality never really entered my life in England.

It only became an issue when I moved to Texas. I started noticing how deeply people held their religious beliefs, and how open they were to talking about them. All through high school I was surrounded by people who would mention God or Jesus whenever they got the chance, and I always got offended by it. I just always believed that religion was a private matter, and definitely not something you just openly talked about in class. And when I got to college things just got worse. Now I was living with people of all different faiths and ideologies, and so naturally clashes occurred between the intolerant people.

I hate intolerance. Living in England taught me that people can be different from me, but still be great once you get to know them, and so when the intolerant people in my dorm would go about preaching their beliefs I just couldn’t believe it. Did they not realize how rude they were being? Did they not understand how offensive they were? After a few heated arguments, I realized that the people who are the most intolerant happen to be the most ignorant of other people’s beliefs. These people practically refuse to accept that their religion maybe isn’t the only correct belief out there, so they attack anything they don’t understand.

I believe in understanding. I believe in empathy. I believe in tolerance and freedom. But I also know that some do not. I know that some refuse to learn about “the heathens”, that some hate those that are different simply because they are different. And I know I can’t do anything to change that mindset. So instead I choose to take the higher path, to not hate them because of their hate, their ignorance. I believe in empathy, they believe in intolerance. But I hope that just as racism has slowly began to die away, so too will the last vestiges of all intolerance. I hope I am not wrong.