Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Abundio Ramirez
English 100
Essay 1: Out-of-Class
August 17, 2001

My Inspiration to Learn

During my elementary year, I was raised in Texas and parts of Eastern Washington. My parents moved every spring for the harvest season, and every time I thought it was fun. I went to kindergarten and first grade in Texas. I had completed most of my first grade there, but we had to move to Prosser, Washington. The school in Texas taught me only in Spanish. I didn’t think my language was going to be a problem when I moved to Eastern Washington. My trouble with English would be my first learning experience in school. In the essay "I Just Wanna Be Average" Mike Rose talks about his experiences, the lack of motivation in school, and the inspiration he received from a teacher.

In his essay, Rose writes about how the influence of an educated teacher motivated him to learn. Mike Rose was mistakenly placed in lower level classes after his test results were confused with another student named Rose. In elementary he learned to tune out teachers by only hearing a mumble in the background. This eventually gave him an escape during his troubled years in high school. Rose’s education changed when an English teacher named Jack MacFarland came into his life. Rose describes it by saying, "He gave me a way to feel special by using my mind. And he provided a role model that wasn’t shaped on physical proverb alone, and something inside me that I wasn’t quite aware of responded to that." In my situation, two teachers inspired me. Each was at a different time of my life.

First grade, in Prosser, Washington, I had an English-speaking teacher, who didn’t speak or understand any Spanish. At this age, I was scared because I didn’t understand the teacher and the students. I could only hear their voices as a mumble in background but nothing clear. The only way I could communicate was through another first grade student named Samuel. Samuel was my translator, but he was not a very good one. I wanted to understand the mumble in the background. In Rose’s case he tuned out his teachers so he could hear the mumble. I was lucky I passed first grade. I don’t know if it was because the year was almost over, or the school system was not strict.

When the harvest season was over, my family decided to stay at least a year more in the state of Washington. So, I went to second grade in Prosser that year. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Gonzales, was bilingual. She taught me how to write, pronounce words and the meaning of them. Mrs. Gonzales taught the class in English and translated it in Spanish. As the school year went by, I learned new words, and I could understand what the other kids were saying. The mumble in the background became words that I could understand. Mrs. Gonzales was one teacher who inspired me by teaching me a new language.

We kept moving back and forth to Texas and Eastern Washington. My education did not change a lot during my third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. The major change came until the last few months of eighth grade, when I moved to Sumas. The Junior High and High Schools were right next to each other, so we ran into high school students all the time. Some of the high school students tried to bully us around, but I defended myself. I didn’t realize that by defending my self, I would get into trouble with the principal. Race was not a big issue in my life until the principal made a comment about Hispanics. It was Hispanics who cause the trouble. Hispanics are the ones who instigate fights. My race became a big part of me because I was insulted by the authoritative figure’s comment. The principal’s view about me was based on a group (Hispanics). He was not looking at me as an individual. I was the one who got in trouble, and every Hispanic was blamed because of our race. I reacted by hating the principal and the teachers. I would disobey teachers on purpose to make them mad. My temper was getting out of control the more I got into trouble. Rose writes about someone named Ken Harvey, who said "I just wanna be average" when asked his opinion about himself. These words stuck in Rose’s mind. He came to understand Harvey’s opinion. In Rose’s words, "What Ken and so many others do is protect themselves from such suffocating madness by taking on with a vengeance the identity implied in the vocational track. Reject the confusion and frustration by openly defining yourself as the Common Joe. Champion the average." In my case, I was doing the very thing that made me mad. I was doing the exact thing that the principal sarcastically commented on. He wanted a Hispanic troublemaker. I gave him a Hispanic troublemaker.

By my freshman year I lost interest in learning. I went to school just to see my friends and I took classes that they had. My math classes were boring and the class time seemed long. I took the required English class as a freshman. Because I wasn’t paying attention in class, I didn’t understand what a subject, verb, and noun were. English was getting difficult as the class moved on, and I was staying behind. We had to write poems and I had no clue how to start one. Yet, I passed my English class with a D and it was good enough for me.

When I got to tenth grade, I was getting into more trouble and my grades were getting worse. This was my difficult year, and everything was ahead of me. I became more rude to the teachers, so I was sent to the office. It was my way of getting out of class and not doing any work. I fell behind even more and my English teacher suggested taking English as a Second Language. I liked the idea because my friends were already in it, and it was an easy class. ESL was more like a study room and a hang out place. It was my kind of place.

As I started eleventh grade, I became more mature. I chose Personal Academic Learning (PAL), my first class that none of my friends were in. PAL was for students who failed classes and wanted to make up their credits at their own pace. I noticed how some of the students made fun of the P.A.L. teacher, Margaret Brown, behind her back. To me she seemed like a nice person. When I had to ask her about a problem in my assignment, I knew she was nice and very knowledgeable. My family and the rest of the other teachers thought I wasn’t going to graduate. Mrs. Brown encouraged me to graduate and become somebody. She made me work hard in my assignments and I didn’t feel forced to do them. I admire Mrs. Brown for being a great teacher. She inspired me to keep on learning, just as Jack Macfarland inspired Rose.

By twelfth grade I was putting a lot of effort to graduate. I didn’t want to stay behind because I didn’t want to work in the fields. I stopped being a smart aleck to the teachers and started listening to them. I would go to Mrs. Brown’s class and get more encouragement when I had time. My goal became to get A’s or B’s in class. It was hard, but it could be done. When I graduated, I realized that four years went by fast. I would miss the place where I didn’t even want to be. My will for knowledge had just started and I hoped for one-day go to college.

My experience in school related to Rose’s own experiences in the way that we both had troubled years in school and we lacked the motivation to learn. For Rose it was tuning out teachers when he wasn’t motivated to learn. For me it was rebelling against teachers because of my lack of knowledge. We both had someone that influenced us to learn. For Rose it was Jack Macfarland, who inspired him. For me it was two teachers who inspired me. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Gonzales and my high school teacher, Margaret Brown.


Copyright 2001
Abundio Ramirez


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA